Our view: The passing of an N.C. great

Oct. 22, 2012 @ 03:02 PM

To some, Bill Friday was a former president of the University of North Carolina system.

However, to most, Friday was more than that.

He was the University of North Carolina system.

The president emeritus of the UNC system passed away on Friday. He served as the president of the 16-campus university system from 1956 to 1986. After his retirement, he remained active, including helping to found the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Over the course of his tenure with the UNC system, Friday might be best remembered as a champion of the educational reputation and academic offerings of the entire system. He brought the system national recognition for its academic excellence and also became a national figure in higher education.

According to The Herald-Sun, William Clyde Friday was born in Raphine, Va., in 1920. He graduated with a degree in textile manufacturing and was senior class president at what would become North Carolina State University. After serving in the Navy, he enrolled in the UNC School of Law. While serving in administrative roles at UNC, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

He became president of UNC at 36.

Over the course of his presidency, Friday presided over years of growth while doing so with a forward-looking perspective and a smart approach.

Some of our members of The Daily Courier Editorial Board offered some comments on his passing and his storied career:

“I had the opportunity once quite some time ago to spend a little time chatting with Bill Friday when he was touring the state with a program concerning preparing people for new century jobs,” said Cliff Strassenburg. “He was a fascinating man. His passing is a real loss for North Carolina.”

Bill Friday had a huge impact upon this state, both as head of the University of North Carolina, and as elder statesman,” said Tom Padgett. “His political influence went far beyond Chapel Hill, and he was admired by Democrats, Republicans, and everyone in-between.

“On the UNCTV show he hosted in his latter years, he interviewed outstanding North Carolinians from a wide variety of backgrounds. He will be missed across North Carolina and nationally.”

The present-day UNC system would not be what it is currently had it not been for the exceptional leadership and perseverance of a man like Bill Friday.

Looking across the university system, in Raleigh, Asheville, Wilmington, Greenville and Greensboro shows the evidence of that leadership and the tenacity to bring the system into the forefront of national academics.

We wish to offer our deepest sympathies to Friday’s family and colleagues and extend the remarks from our Editorial Board in stating that our university system will be long-remembered for the accomplishments made under Friday’s leadership.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board

The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Joan Murray, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Publisher Jake Volcsko and Editor Matthew Clark.