|Public is invited to celebration in honor of William Friday’s 90th birthday on July 13|
|Wednesday, June 30, 2010|
William C. Friday, the man whose name is synonymous with North Carolina higher education during much of the 20th century, marks his 90th birthday next month.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the UNC General Alumni Association are hosting an open house in Friday’s honor on July 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Carolina Club at the Hill Alumni Center. The public is invited.
Friday, who grew up in Gaston County, earned a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering from N.C. State University in 1941, married Ida Howell the following year and served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1942 until 1946. He received his law degree from Carolina in 1948.
Before becoming president of the UNC system in 1956, a post he held for three decades, Friday worked in several different leadership positions. From 1948 until 1951 he served as assistant dean of students at Carolina before he was named assistant to Gordon Gray, president of the consolidated university system (which then included Carolina, N.C. State and UNC-Greensboro).
In 1955, Friday became secretary of the university system and was named acting president the following year. He was chosen to take the position permanently later that year and remained until 1986, becoming the longest-serving president of the 20th century. That same year, a Council of Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) study named Friday the most effective public university president in the nation.
During his tenure as UNC system president, Friday was a supporter of academic freedom, fairness and integrity. He often served as mediator between student activists and a conservative legislature during the civil rights movement, and he worked for five years to repeal the 1963 Speaker Ban Law, which made it illegal for critics of the government to appear on campus.
Friday’s sphere of influence also led to the development of Research Triangle Park, the sponsorship of North Carolina public television and the formation of the expanded UNC system, which now includes 17 campuses.
His involvement in the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Higher Education led to North Carolina’s gains in federal funding for student aid in Pell Grants and the establishment of the Area Health Education Centers.
With Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame, Friday served as founding co-chair of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which worked to reform college athletics. He was chair for 15 years.
When he retired as UNC president, Friday was named the first executive director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, a post he held for 10 years.
Throughout his career, Friday received numerous awards, including the American Council on Education’s National Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievement, the National Humanities Medal, the American Academy for Liberal Education’s Jacques Barzun Award and the John Hope Franklin Award. In 2004, the N.C. General Assembly held a special joint session to honor Friday’s life and works. The legislature and then-Gov. Mike Easley presented William and Ida Friday with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award for service to North Carolina.
Note: If you can’t attend the birthday celebration for William Friday, greetings may be sent to his home at 521 Hooper Lane, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.