Happy 90th Birthday, Bill Friday!

July 13, 2010
By Cherry Crayton
Bill Friday '41 posing for the Technician's spring fashion issue when he was a senior at NC State. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections, NCSU Libraries)

Bill Friday '41 in 1941. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections, NCSU Libraries)

The Alumni Association wishes William “Bill” Friday ’41 a Happy Birthday! President emeritus of the UNC System and host of UNC-TV’s North Carolina People,  Friday turns 90 years old today. He’s pictured above in a photo for the spring fashion issue of Technician in 1941. The public is invited to attend a celebration honoring  Friday today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Carolina Club in Chapel Hill. (Details here.)

Here’s the lead to NC State’s spring 2003 profile of him:

If you were looking for a map of North Carolina so complete that it revealed not just the course of its rivers or the height of its mountains, but also the character and soul of the place, you might consult Bill Friday’s face.

It’s a familiar face, framed by the same style of haircut and eyeglasses that Friday wore 46 years ago, when he became the youngest president of the UNC System. It’s a face that has been invited into living rooms across the state for more than 30 years as host of the television program North Carolina People. And it’s a face that has witnessed every corner of the state and every transformation that has shaped North Carolina in the last half century, a face so much a part of the times that many have come to regard it almost as public property.

Read our entire profile of Friday here, and find three facts about  him after the jump:

  • He received a $50 scholarship in 1937 to attend Wake Forest College. He spent a year at Wake Forest before transferring to NC State to study textile engineering. “My father was in that business, and it was sort of foreordained since I was the oldest son,” Friday told NC State magazine in 1986.
  • When he was named president of the UNC System in 1956, then 35 years old, he became the youngest president of a university system in the nation.
  • He was president of the UNC System for 30 years, making him the longest serving university president in the 20th century. After he retired in 1986 as president of the UNC System, he told NC State magazine: “As one grows older, you think back to the happy days, and certainly the years that I was [at NC State] as a student were the happiest years that I’ve experienced because of what I got from being a student at State. And it was capped by the fact that I found my wife there.”

Sources: Rebecca Morphis’ “Our Man Friday” in NC State’s Spring 2003 issue and Iris June Vinegar’s “Mr. Friday” in NC State’s March 1986 issue.

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