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William Friday, 1920-2012

A memorial service for Mr. Friday took place on
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:00 am on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.
A video of this service can be seen at

Dear Friends,

Mr. Bill Friday, who inspired us all, passed away at age 92, peacefully and at home, on Friday morning, Oct 12. North Carolina and the nation have lost a great leader who had a positive impact on so many, including, of course, everyone involved in the work here at the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. I know that we are all proud to work at an Institute that bears the name of this wonderful man and his beloved wife of 70 years, Ida.

With great vision, wisdom, and commitment, Mr. Friday was President of the UNC system for 30 years, 1956-1986, leading the creation of the 16 campus system and increasing enrollment almost tenfold. Through turbulent times on American campuses, Mr. Friday had an unwavering commitment to civil rights, to freedom of speech, and to making a quality college education available to all. He help shaped national education programs as an advisor to President Lyndon Johnson, played a lead role in creating Research Triangle Park, and continued to make important contributions to education throughout his life. Just a week before his death, he was interviewed by the Washington Post about the appropriate role of athletics in colleges, an issue in which he was very involved as founder of the Knight Commission.

The Friday Institute’s mission statement begins with the words Inspire. Innovate. Educate. These three words, which are also engraved upon our walls, epitomize Mr. Friday’s life and lie at the heart of the Institute that he helped shape and that is named in his honor.

We have had the privilege of Mr. Friday joining us each year past when we awarded the Friday Medal for Educational Innovation. At our next Friday Medal event, on November 14, and all those that follow, we will celebrate the life of this wonderful man who served as a mentor and beacon for so many of us. I know that Mr. Friday was pleased that this year’s award will go to Dr. David Rose, from CAST and Harvard University, whose work on universal design for learning focuses on providing effective education for all students, a goal that was at the center of Mr. Friday’s life.

As I thought about what we could do in honor of Mr. Friday, it was immediately clear what he would ask of us. I could almost hear his voice, still so strong and clear at age 92, so full of both wisdom and kindness. I have no doubt that he would say: Glenn, I want you to make sure that all those smart and dedicated people at the Friday Institute continue their good work to improve our schools and support our teachers so that every child has the opportunity for a good education, from preschool through college. And I’m sure you would all join me in responding: Yes, Mr. Friday, we will do our best to carry forth the mission and have the work of the Friday Institute be worthy of bearing your name.


Glenn Kleiman
Executive Director
Friday Institute for Educational Innovation
NC State University College of Education

Drs. Kleiman and Spires speak about Mr. Friday’s legacy:

Tributes and Remembrances from the Friday Institute community:

My first opportunity to get to know Mr. Friday came through my wife Hunter’s work at UNC-TV. When Mr. Friday’s NC People show celebrated its 25th anniversary on the air, Hunter was in charge of organizing the station’s gala event to honor Mr. Friday and the show. What I expected at the event was a crowd filled with the state’s current political leadership, major donors to the station, and leading corporate citizens.

Mr. Friday had something different in mind.

The people he wanted in attendance were the artists and educators and business people and inventors who had been on his show—the people who make North Carolina what it is. When I sat down at my table that night, there was a Seagrove potter, a boat builder from down east, and a celebrated Raleigh lawyer among those in the seats around me.

Since that time, I had the chance to receive his counsel on matters educational and political. But what has always stuck with me is that night of the 25th anniversary of NC People. That experience taught me all I needed to know about why Mr. Friday had been such a strong leader of the university system and remained one of North Carolina’s great statesmen: he loved and believed in the people of this state. And he saw it his responsibility to ensure that the university served their interests.

His belief in people and his sense of duty are his great legacies—and his lesson to all of us who strive to serve North Carolina in our own way.

J.B. Buxton
Former Deputy State Superintendent, NC Department of Public Instruction
Friday Institute Advisory Board member

Bill Friday was an inspiration to so many of us with his humble spirit, great character, and concern for our welfare. He was one of the first individuals to send me a congratulatory hand written note when I was appointed Superintendent of the Wake County Public School System. What surprised me was the fact that he wrote he has been following my career and then shared specific examples. His advice to me was to “ never compromise your principles and seek excellence”. He showed up again after I won the 2004 National Superintendent of the Year Award; this time he arrived with his camera crew and interviewed me for his television program. We spent more than two hours talking about life, careers, family and what we want our grandchildren to remember about us. He said he simply wanted his grandchildren to remember that “he tried to make the world a better place for them”. I think we can all agree that he more than accomplished this goal and leaves a legacy that makes him one of the great icons of our generation. God bless you Bill Friday!

Bill McNeal
Former Superintendent of Wake County Schools
2004 American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year
Friday Institute Advisory Board member
2011 Recipient of the Friday Medal for Educational Innovation

Growing up in rural, largely poor Northeastern North Carolina, Bill Friday was a name that carried real weight in our home. So much so that when I and each of my four siblings arrived at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—the first generation in our family to attend college—our father provided each of us with a bag of specially prepared peanuts with the following instructions, “As soon as you arrive on campus, take these peanuts to Dr. Friday and introduce yourself.” Our father had such regard for Bill that he thought if we each knew him that we’d have someone to look after us far away from our Chowan County home. I’m not sure if Bill ever remembered us, but it sure anchored him as a legend in our household.

Years later I got to know Bill as an adult when he invited me to be a guest on his television program, NC People. He was so generous to a young upstart, and all I could think of during the interview was that I was talking with Bill Friday! It’s one of my most treasured memories. In the years that followed, Bill talked with me about the importance of public education at all levels and that our shared commitment to equity provided a path out of poverty for our state and our communities.

Bill Friday will live on for years to come in his legacy across the UNC system and in the work of those who were inspired by his vision for North Carolina. His belief that we all benefit when the least of us—especially those seeking to become the first in their families to succeed in college—are educated to high levels marches forward.

Tony Habit
President, NC New Schools Project

There are few people in this world who had the vision, intelligence, and true caring for people of all walks of life as Mr. Friday did. I’m proud to do my best to carry on his work here at the William and Ida Friday Institute.

Eric Wiebe
Friday Institute Senior Research Fellow

My first introduction to Mr. Friday was during my assignment of working for Governor Jim Hunt as his Senior Education Advisor i the 1990s. At that point Mr. Friday’s office was high on a hill in Chapel Hill behind the Dean Dome basketball arena, a fitting location given his leadership on the Knight Commission to bring sanity back into the role of athletics in higher education. Like many others I found him engaging, polite, humble and knowledgeable. Yet I also saw a side of Mr. Friday rarely seen by most- his intense, and I mean intense- focus on finding whatever solution necessary to deal with the politics of our state that might threaten the University system. Below his graciousness was a man fiercely focused on improving the University system, a focus so intense that my respect for him trumped anything I had ever heard about Mr. Friday.

When asked to chair the Friday Institute’s initial Advisory Board meeting, the decision was easy. If Bill and Ida Friday were behind the creation of the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University, how could anyone say no. What a great man who will be sorely missed.

Tom Houlihan
Former Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers
Friday Institute Advisory Board member

I was so impressed when I heard Dr. Friday’s speech at the building dedication. He seemed so genuine and thoughtful. His mind was always going. I met him and his family 3- 4 years ago when they walked through the Friday Institute building and had the chance to describe our program to him. He asked me some thought-provoking questions about some impressive stats that I threw out to him. He was a sharp man, and he will be missed..

Braska Williams Jr
NC MSEN Pre-College Program Coordinator, The Friday Institute

I will always remember, during the FI dedication events, Mr Friday looking us straight in the eye and saying the FI has his name on it because it is an educational institution and that if we do not significantly assist teachers and students in the classrooms of North Carolina with improvement, we will have missed our mark.

Andy Overstreet
Director of Education Leadership Initiatives, The Friday Institute

Although I did not know Bill Friday personally, I knew about him and his work at the university as well as in the larger community. When I moved to North Carolina nearly twenty years ago, I quickly learned of his work as my colleagues talked about him with sense of awe and appreciation. I soon realized that our work to ensure a quality education for “all” students was possible because Bill Friday built the foundation on which we labored. I also very much enjoyed and profited from his PBS program, NC People. I got to know the North Carolinians that were making a difference.

Bert L’Homme
Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of Washington
Former Superintendent, Franklin County Schools (NC)
Friday Institute Advisory Board member

Bill Friday was a leader whose legacy will always be an inspiration in education. We are honored that our research institute bears his name and will continue to innovate the field of education in his vision.

Jayne Fleener
Dean, College of Education, NC State University

Bill Friday was a gentle yet powerful leader whose kind words and steady guidance touched the lives of so many. Yet I will remember him most not for his speaking, but for his ability to listen through one’s words, focusing his quiet energy on discovering their underlying meaning. This is the foundation of his legacy as a leader in building consensus, bridging social divides and championing the value of higher education. His work resides in the hearts of North Carolinians and admirers around the world; particularly in the educational strides being made here at the Friday Institute. His legacy will long be missed and forever remembered.

Randy Woodson
Chancellor, NC State University

Bill Friday was a giant in our time. He developed one of the best university systems in the country. He was a great visionary in making the Research Triangle Park become a reality in the future economic development of North Carolina. Bill was firm on accessibility and affordability to higher education for all. Even after retirement, he quietly pushed a more egalitarian, supportive agenda for all North Carolinians. As he said, “it is just the right thing to do”. He was a man of great love for all people and showed it every day of his life. Bill, a man of humility and modesty, was the essence of “Esse Quam Vedire”. We have been blessed to have known him.

Ann Goodnight
Director of Community Relastion, SAS
Secretary, UNC Board of Governors
Friday Institute Advisory Board member

Among the many wonderful things that happened in the creation of the Friday Institute, none was as important as the opportunity provided by the magnanimous lead donors to name the building in honor of William and Ida Friday. With that naming we gained the friendship and wisdom of an incredible man and his warm and gracious family. With that naming, the College became indelibly linked with one of North Carolina’s greatest champions of education, and NC State University was able to honor one of her most famous and certainly most beloved graduates. And with that naming, we all are called to do our very best on behalf of the people of North Carolina, because Mr. Friday made it clear he expected nothing less.

Mr. Friday took a direct and personal interest in what we were planning and aspiring to do. He helped us assemble a nationally distinguished advisory board, and many of his friends and colleagues joined in our efforts to raise the funds to build the building and launch the enterprise it currently houses. His presence at events and his friendly interest in the projects of our staff and faculty cheered all of us. The children and teachers from the Centennial Campus Middle School pressed around him to shake his hand. Our young teacher candidates who hosted him and Ida at so many events took pride that he paused to talk to them and encourage them in their desire to become teachers. And in every speech he made at Friday Medal events or other occasions, he spoke clearly and steadfastly for the essential importance of education, good education, for the health and prosperity of North Carolina and the nation.

Intelligent, thoughtful, wise and humorous, he loved to tell stories and he loved to listen to them. He rejoiced in good news, and changed the subject when the news wasn’t so good. He could recall vividly his days at NC State as a student, courting Miss Ida, and strolling down Hillsborough Street. His eyes grew serious and his voice firmed when he talked about the need to improve education–and collegiate athletics. It was a privilege to know him if all too briefly. And it is a privilege to be part of a college where his name will forever be honored.

Kathryn Moore
Professor, College of Education, NC State University
Former Dean, College of Education, NC State University

Bill and Ida Friday were among the smiling faces and mentors I met as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. I remember singing Christmas carols every December on the front porch of the President’s house in Chapel Hill as a member of the UNC Clef Hangers. This was an annual tradition for our a cappella group, made all the more special by the welcoming enthusiasm of a great leader and his wife. Their reaction every year signaled their enjoyment as much as ours.

I was proud to witness his philanthropy and kindness after graduation as a UNC employee. On several occasions, I would run into him in the building where I worked and knew that I could greet him, and receive a warm greeting in return. His demeanor never communicated that it wasn’t ok to sit next to him and have a chat while he was waiting for a meeting or appointment in the building.

His ability to speak to anyone was not lost on my grandmother who remarked on numerous occasions, “He’s a fine man. I like listening to him on TV. There should be more shows with men like him.” We both agreed that a man with such intelligence, wisdom, and genuine kindness was not the norm for TV moderators, nor for men who walked a similar professional path.

My life is all the richer for the model of professionalism and personality demonstrated by Bill Friday. He was a great leader, a great person, and a great North Carolinian. His legacy offers countless lessons for us all.

Bobby Hobgood
Friday Institute Research Associate

My grandmother has lived her entire life — nearly a century now — between the banks of the Roanoke River and the Albemarle Sound. She left school after 4th grade to work in her father’s store, and she never returned. When she was younger, she rarely travelled, and today she spends all of her time inside the boundaries of a small neighborhood in Edenton.

Born and raised in any other state, her universe might have remained small, homogeneous, and tightly proscribed. Every week, however, my grandmother was able to tune in to North Carolina People, Mr. Friday’s long-running show on UNC TV, where he helped her to meet people from all across her home state. Mr. Friday did more than entertain her with his friendly and engaging conversations; he made it possible for my grandmother to become a full and engaged citizen of her state.

Over the next few weeks, many people will remember Mr. Friday for all of the things that he did to better the lives of the youth of our state. I hope during this time of remembrance and reflection that we also will take time to remember him for his tireless efforts to make all of our lives richer, no matter our age or station.

Trip Stallings
Director of Policy Research, The Friday Institute

Mr. Friday embodied everything that is great about the people of North Carolina. He was kind and full of curiosity. He was thoughtful and smart but never made anyone feel inferior. He was honest and independent. He was well-traveled but he never forgot where he was from. Our state lost a great man, a great leader, a voice of reason, respect, and honesty during these difficult and often contentious times. His life’s work reminds us that education can be the great equalizer and we should continue his fight to ensure everyone had access to a quality education in our state.

Jeni Corn
Director of Evaluation Programs, The Friday Institute

Mr. Friday was a remarkable human being who tirelessly devoted his life to the university system and the people of North Carolina. Extraordinary servant leadership comes to mind when I think of how he conducted his life and work. He was an amalgamation of humility and power that inspired the best in others. I recall how curious he was about where people came from–I can hear him quoting James Baldwin: “If you know from whence you’ve come, there are absolutely no limits to where you can go.” As I listened to the speakers during Mr. Friday’s memorial service, I was reminded once again how privileged we are to have the Institute on NC State’s Centennial Campus that bears his name. Let’s renew our energy and vision to carry on the legacy of this great educator who touched so many people in profound ways. He will be missed.

Hiller A. Spires
Professor & Friday Institute Sr. Research Fellow

I am proud to have received a Medal from NCSU that bears Bill Friday’s name, and every day I attempt to live up to his precepts of service to others.

Chris Dede
Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Harvard Graduate School of Education

The accolades can never be “too many” for Mr. Friday, a gentle, powerful, passionate leader who graced our presence on numerous occasions at the Friday Institute, meetings, dinners, celebrations. One of the first times I met him I shared a photograph of a dapper young Bill when he was a student at NC State. He said, “That was a long time ago, Carol. It was the same year I met Ida, the best thing that ever happened to me.” What a tribute to their relationship and history that he often shared with others. It touched me deeply as I realized that all of Mr. Friday’s relationships and passions were like that–complete loyalty, integrity, and commitment. How fortunate I feel to have had such moments in his presence. He always spoke the truth and spoke it from his soul.

He came alive when he was in the presence of the Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School children, as is evident from that wonderful photo on the Friday Institute site.

Carol Pope
Professor, College of Education, NC State University

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