Tribute to Bill Friday

Dear Wake Forest family,

Last week, the world of higher education lost a faithful friend and esteemed leader when former president of the University of North Carolina system, William “Bill” Friday, passed away. Those who knew President Friday have lost a wise mentor and a reliable voice of counsel; the students and educators of the UNC system have lost an innovative leader and courageous visionary; and, the people of this state have lost a steadfast brother and constant advocate for North Carolinians.

For 30 years, President Friday was at the helm of the UNC educational system, using caring leadership to create a community of learners. Under his guidance, the UNC system formed a multi-campus network that helped shape the modern era of higher education. He maneuvered higher education through desegregation and the unrest of the Vietnam War while also serving on national committees that worked to improve all aspects of the collegiate experience.

President Friday played a central role in the development of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and co-chaired the Knight Commission with Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. at a critical period. Their recommendations have been influential in NCAA reforms to improve academic standards and graduation rates among student athletes. Last spring, Bill called me to say how pleased he was that the NCAA Division I board had taken further steps to ensure academic integrity.

President Friday began his collegiate career at Wake Forest University before transferring to North Carolina State University to complete his education. A member of the class of 1938, he was proud of his association with Wake Forest and returned often to visit and speak on campus. In 1957, President Friday was awarded a Doctor of Laws honorary degree.

His legacy, heralded across the nation, is one of devoted public service and deep courage and conviction. He was the support behind generations of North Carolina students and the leadership driving decades of thoughtful educational progression. Always the educator, he taught us the value and importance of higher education and showed us what it means to lead and labor as a person of integrity.

On behalf of Wake Forest University, I send my thoughts and prayers to the family of President Bill Friday – a leader, a Wake Forester, and a fellow North Carolinian.

Nathan O. Hatch

Categories: Letters