William C. Friday, a legend in North Carolina for his pioneering work in higher education, has died. He was 92 years old.
Friday, an alumnus of NC State, served as president of the University of North Carolina System for 30 years. During his tenure, Friday oversaw the system’s growth from four campuses to 16. He was instrumental in making North Carolina home to one of the finest higher education systems in the world.
“Bill Friday was a transformational leader in public higher education,” NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said. “He was known as someone who always put others first. I, along with countless other leaders in higher education, benefited from his wise advice and counsel. Through his distinguished career, he modeled public service at its best, marked by integrity, courtesy, humility and perseverance. He set the standard for the value and importance of education in this state. Thanks to his legacy, North Carolina will continue to be a leader in education.“
Raised in Dallas, N.C., Friday earned a bachelor’s degree in textile manufacturing from NC State in 1941. As a student, Friday was a resident advisor, sports editor for Technician and president of his senior class. Friday also met his future wife, Ida, at NC State.
Speaking at graduation in 1941, Friday told his classmates to “keep State College constantly in your mind. . . You and I are going to be held responsible in a great measure for the growth and progress of the institution.”
He more than lived up to those words. During Friday’s years as UNC president, the system grew tremendously. So did NC State. From Friday’s appointment in 1956 to his retirement in 1986, the university’s enrollment quadrupled.
“Most of us, as we grow older, really resist change,” Friday said when reflecting on his NC State experience in 2009. “We don’t want things to be different. But the business of this institution is to make things different. And you have to understand that when you’re a part of (NC State), that’s the glory of it.”
Friday’s legacy lives on at NC State, as it does across North Carolina. NC State is home to the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation.