William Friday, a Dallas, North Carolina native, displayed his interested in student leadership during high school. Friday served as the president of his high school class for four years and lettered in basketball and baseball. Following graduation from high school, Bill Friday enrolled at Wake Forest College where he served as treasurer of the freshman class. Friday transferred to NC State College in 1938 and quickly began participating in student activities, including Student Government. During his junior year, Friday served as an official in the textile show; his other honors included serving as the sports editor of The Technician, membership in the Golden Chain and Blue Key honor societies, and service as the president of the Student Senate. During his junior year, Bill Friday helped organize a Young Democrats Club on campus, which he later headed as president. In May 1940, Friday defeated Tom Jackson 131 to 129 in the election for senior class president. While serving as senior class president, Friday was also elected president of the NC Federation of Student Governments. During this time, because of national coal mine strikes, the NC State Power Plant faced a fuel shortage. In an effort to conserve fuel, administrators cut off power to the residence halls during the day and to classroom buildings at night. According to the Technician, the Power Plant used approximately 20 tons of coal a day to power campus. Friday graduated from State College in 1941 with a degree in Textile Manufacturing.
Following graduation, Friday worked at State College as the chief dormitory assistant. While working on campus, Friday aided in organizing the first annual State College-Raleigh Day on October 18, 1941. The Technician also credited Friday for increasing football ticket sales for the NC State-Wake Forest game due to Friday’s pre-game publicity and pep meetings. The Technician declared, “If more of our alumni had the spirit and faith in his school that Friday has, this college would attain even higher heights.” Friday resigned as chief dorm assistant in January 1941 to volunteer in the Naval Reserve, where he became an ensign in the Ordinance Corps.
Senior Class President, 1941
Class of 1941
While serving as senior class president, Friday sponsored a “cut bill” that increased the number of times students could cut classes without penalty. The bill passed, allowing juniors and seniors ten cuts per term. Students celebrated the bill’s approval and The Technician printed a special edition to announce the news.
In January 1941, Friday called a special senior class meeting in Pullen Hall to “discuss plans for a drive for a larger appropriation from the current session of the General Assembly. . .” As Friday described, financial appropriations did not increase proportionately with student enrollment. Perhaps due to student lobbying, the General Assembly increased the Greater University’s budget by $500,000 the following month.
Bill Friday presided over the NC Federation of Student Governments' annual convention at Greensboro College on March 28 and 29, 1941. State College Student Body President Paul Lehman attended the convention as a delegate.
Friday served as a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve until 1946; he then enrolled in law school at the University of North Carolina, where he graduated with his J.D. in 1948. Friday served as the assistant dean of students at UNC from 1948 until 1951 and as assistant to University President Gordon Gray beginning in 1951. In 1956, Bill Friday served as acting president of the Consolidated University system, a position which became permanent the same year. His position changed to president of the UNC System in 1972. Friday maintained his presidency until 1986 when he retired, making him the "longest-serving University president of the 20th century." During Friday’s tenure, the UNC system "incorporated 13 new campuses into the state system, bringing the total number to 16. The system’s budget rose substantially, from $40.7 million to $1.5 billion, and enrollment climbed from 14,971 to 125,000 students." NC State University’s William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation located on Centennial Campus honors the Fridays, "who have been passionate advocates for education for more than 50 years." Bill Friday died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on 12 October 2012.
Technician (9 February 1940, 16 February 1940, 23 February 1940, 10 May 1940, 10 January 1941, 28 March 1941, 26 September 1941, 24 October 1941, 9 January 1942)
UNC-TV, North Carolina People with William Friday, “William Friday.” Accessed 14 April 2011.
North Carolina History Project, “William C. Friday (1920- ).” Accessed 14 April 2011.
The William & Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, “About Us.” Accessed 14 April 2011.