Reactions to William Friday's death
“Bill Friday lived a life that exemplified everything that has made our university – and the state of North Carolina – great. He was a man of unquestioned honor and integrity who devoted a lifetime of extraordinary leadership and service to the university and state he loved so much. He also was a man of deep courage and conviction who never backed away from doing the right thing for our students, our faculty or our citizens. We have truly lost one of North Carolina’s most special treasures.
“Personally, President Friday was a mentor and role model to me throughout my career, and I am privileged to have followed in his footsteps as president of the University of North Carolina. He quite literally set the national gold standard for university leadership, and it’s safe to say that no one will ever be more respected or influential in American higher education. Over the years, I have valued and appreciated his thoughtful perspective, his sage advice and his insight about our state and its people. His life was a remarkable testament to the notion that one person can make a lasting difference and change the world for the better. He was an inspiration to us all. I will miss him deeply.”
— UNC President Tom Ross
“Bill Friday was my hero, my mentor and my friend. His advice and counsel to me throughout my adult life was a rare gift I will always treasure, and his unconditional support during my tenure as president of the university was absolutely invaluable.
"For me, the University of North Carolina will always be 'Bill Friday’s University.' He quite literally poured the foundation for it, and then over a distinguished tenure that spanned 30 years, he helped build our public university system into the extraordinary economic and cultural engine it is for today. The positive impact this great man had on our university, our state and our nation is staggering. I will miss him terribly.”
— Former UNC President Erskine Bowles
“North Carolina has lost one of its most remarkable citizens in Bill Friday. His influence on public higher education in our state and across the nation is legendary. In a lifetime devoted to public service, Bill Friday was committed to providing access to high-quality, affordable higher education to North Carolina students. He was tireless in his efforts to underscore the importance of higher education to people from all walks of life, as well as to our state’s future prosperity.
"I always admired his conviction to defend academic freedom and freedom of speech. It was only fitting that Mr. Friday joined us a year ago today – on University Day – to dedicate the Speaker Ban Marker in McCorkle Place, documenting the efforts that our own students and he made to overturn a misguided law.
"As UNC president, he governed and served with passion, integrity and an abiding commitment to justice. And the positive impact both he and Ida have had at Carolina for thousands of students, faculty and staff is difficult to describe because it has been so pervasive for all these years.
"Mr. Friday was exceedingly gracious in sharing his wise counsel with me when I became chancellor. He always did so with a gentle, guiding hand and a deep appreciation for the office and the responsibilities that go with it. His keen insights and common sense were unparalleled. Like so many others throughout North Carolina, I will miss Bill Friday, but I know that his legacy – especially at our university – will always live on for future generations.”
— UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp
“Bill Friday was a transformational leader in public higher education. 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.”
— N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson
"He was a luminary in the field of higher education, a dear friend to our university and mentor to several of our chancellors. He was a fierce and passionate advocate for all students and for inclusiveness.
"We will keep his family, especially his wife, Ida, and their two daughters, in our thoughts and prayers.”
— N.C. Central Chancellor Charles Becton
“Bill Friday was a leader, a visionary, a role model and a friend. Brooke and I were deeply saddened to hear of his passing, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all North Carolinians whose lives he touched.
"Despite never running for public office, Bill was one of the brightest political minds I have ever known. I enjoyed the time I spent with him both on and off camera, and his legacy in politics and education will endure for generations.”
— U.S. Sen. Richard Burr
“Today, North Carolina lost one of our greatest leaders and advocates. A true public servant, Bill Friday helped shape North Carolina into the 21st century economic engine it is today. He grew the University of North Carolina system into the best higher education system in the country. He helped make Research Triangle Park a world-renowned center for innovation and entrepreneurship. And he advocated tirelessly to ensure that a college education was within reach for all North Carolina students.
“Most importantly, Bill Friday loved the people of North Carolina. That love was evident in his work for our state, as well as his weekly talk show where, for three decades, he welcomed the writers, thinkers, educators and others who were working to make a difference for North Carolina.
"Bill Friday was inspired by the citizens of our state and inspired so many of us in return. He embodied the best of North Carolina, and his legacy will continue to live on in the many lives he touched.”
— U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan
“Lisa and I share the community’s profound sense of loss and sadness with the passing of our friend Bill Friday. We extend our condolences and good wishes to Ida, Bill’s wife, and to all of their loved ones.
“Bill Friday was a North Carolina treasure. He led by inspiration and example – with dignity, compassion and humility – through over five decades of public service. His legacy is a stronger state with a superb university system, a richer public life, a more vibrant culture and a diverse and resilient economy. Bill was instrumental in giving the gift of education to hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians – citizens who went out and served our state and nation in countless ways.
"As a product of the University of North Carolina, I too owe him my gratitude for an educational experience that broadened my horizons and set me on my life’s course. Bill continued his work for decades in what no one could really call ‘retirement’ with his public television show, North Carolina People. Like many North Carolinians, Lisa and I looked forward to inviting him into our home every week to see where he and his guests would lead us. In this and many other ways, we will treasure his memory and miss him greatly.”
— U.S. Rep. David Price
“Bill Friday was truly a renaissance man, a phenomenal educational and human service leader, a marvelous husband and daddy and my friend.
"Bob and I are very sad to learn of his passing. His dedication and service to North Carolina and monumental impact on our state cannot be overstated. There has been no person in North Carolina’s history who more fully exemplified how one individual can, year after year, make a tremendous difference.
"It’s only fitting that today, University Day at UNC, that the Carolina angels called him home. We loved him so much and will miss him dearly.”
— Gov. Beverly Perdue
“I am deeply saddened by the news of Bill Friday’s passing today, which is University Day. Dr. Friday was a good friend and one of the finest North Carolinians of this or any generation. We have lost a good man, one of North Carolina’s greatest public servants and a true champion of education.
"As the head of our UNC system, Dr. Friday worked tirelessly to make sure North Carolinians from every corner of the state would have access to an excellent, affordable education. Even after his retirement, his passionate work in the fight for a better future never diminished. We all owe Dr. Friday a debt of gratitude for his legendary service. Lucille and I send our thoughts and prayers to Ida Friday and the entire family.”
— Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton
“Bill Friday transformed education in our state and opened opportunities for millions of North Carolinians. Just this week, as our system began its 50th anniversary recognition, I noted how it was UNC System President Bill Friday, along with State Education Board Chairman Dr. Dallas Herring, who together sat on a floor in Raleigh with a state map to draw the initial circles of where new community colleges should be located.
"Bill Friday was my personal hero and my mentor. I will miss him greatly.”
— N.C. Community College System President Scott Ralls
“Bill Friday’s extraordinary leadership improved the lives of millions of North Carolinians through affordable, quality education. He is an education legend whose influence was unparalleled.”
— Attorney General Roy Cooper
“I was deeply saddened to learn of Bill Friday’s passing. Dr. Friday’s extraordinary talents and the quality of his leadership not only transformed higher education, but positively impacted countless individuals. There is no doubt that all North Carolinians are beneficiaries of the tireless efforts of this great public servant.”
— Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger
"UNC-TV management, staff and boards express their deepest sympathy to Ida Friday and the entire Friday family on the passing this morning of President William Friday.
"It goes without saying that Mr. Friday was a giant in public education as the leader of the University of North Carolina from 1956 to 1986, overseeing the development of the consolidated 17-campus system in place today. More than that, he was an exemplary leader for North Carolina in a period of great transition into the dynamic and progressive state it is today.
"With respect to UNC-TV, Mr. Friday was one of the people responsible for the establishment of public television in North Carolina, was the driving force behind the creation of today's statewide network, and, of course, was the host of UNC-TV's longest-running original production, North Carolina People with William Friday. North Carolina People went on the air in 1971, and Mr. Friday interviewed literally hundreds of North Carolinians from all walks of life during his 41 years of weekly programs with grace, wisdom, and gentle humor.
"We are saddened by his passing, but we are grateful for his countless contributions to the state he loved and for his commitment to UNC-TV and public television. We will miss him terribly."
— Steve Volstad, UNC-TV director of communications and marketing
"I am deeply saddened by the death of President William (Bill) Friday. My heart goes out to the Friday family during this difficult time. Bill Friday was an exceptional and revered leader in the Tar Heel State. Neither Chapel Hill nor the University of North Carolina would be where it is today without his leadership.
"Dr. Friday spent his entire professional life in higher education, holding various leadership positions in the university until taking the helm of the UNC system in 1956, where he remained as president until 1986. Dr. Friday oversaw a tumultuous period in UNC's history, a period that included the desegregation of the UNC system, free speech issues, championing affordability in higher education and unifying the 16-campus university system. Dr. Friday was a staunch believer in the idea that education could lift people out of poverty and empower them to become productive and contributing citizens.
"In the loss of William Friday, we have lost a luminary in education and one of the most important North Carolinians in a generation. His contribution to the Tar Heel State will live on in the University of North Carolina, its students and alumni. His passing is a great loss to the Carolina family and the Chapel Hill community."
— Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt
"We feel a great sense of loss upon hearing the news that our dear friend and tireless leader William Friday passed away this morning.
"The positive and lasting impact Bill Friday had on higher education and college sports in particular cannot be overstated. As the founding co-chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, he provided the moral compass for the Knight Commission and higher education on the subjects of presidential leadership, academic and financial integrity.
"His stalwart determination to see this effort through to the end was evident in a passionate interview published in The Washington Post earlier this week, where he insisted it’s possible to compete in college sports without compromising values. He leaves a tremendous legacy, and we are honored to have worked with him."
— Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics
“We will remember Bill Friday by resolving to never forget the lessons of an amazing life of service and commitment to principle.
"He was an essential educator who understood 'student-athlete' as an ideal to teach both discipline and values. He was a fearless lover of truth and a defender of free speech and engagement of community in solving problems. And even those of us who knew him less could not help but be charmed by his sharp and gently used sense of humor.
"Bill was then-Knight Foundation President Creed Black's inspiration for the creation of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. He and his co-chair, Fr Theodore Hesburgh, were essential to its success.
"Anyone who knew him, who benefited from his leadership in education and in North Carolina, and all of us at Knight Foundation shall be forever grateful.”
— Knight Foundation President and Chief Executive Alberto Ibargüen