North Carolina State University’s Park Scholarships Class of 2023 will present the 24th annual William C. Friday Award to Molly Barker on Thursday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m. in Talley Student Union’s Piedmont Ballroom. RSVP here.
Molly Barker is an educator, triathlete, author and social visionary. She was nominated by the Class of 2023 for her commitment to unraveling limiting cultural and societal stereotypes about gender. She is the founder of Girls on the Run, a nonprofit organization that creates confidence-building programming for young girls, and the Red Boot Coalition, which creates spaces for communities to grow stronger through intentional conversations.
Barker is from Charlotte, North Carolina and holds a B.S. in chemistry from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s in social work. She worked as an educator and social worker prior to launching her career as a nationally recognized social justice advocate for young girls.
Her background in education and social work, individual research about youth resiliency and her love for running serve as the inspiration for Girls on the Run’s foundational curriculum.
A four-time Hawaiian Ironman triathlete competitor, Barker’s running career started when she was 15 years old. She claims running saved her life and allowed her to make a difference. She has published four books about self-esteem and respect in young girls and has given multiple TEDx talks. Barker is dedicated to speaking out about societal boundaries, and coined the phrase, “The Girl Box”, the place girls are put by society’s cultural stereotypes which limit their opportunities.
For her outstanding societal impact, Barker was awarded a Daily Point of Light award from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and a Distinguished Alumna award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008.
Barker is also a retreat designer and facilitator, and the mother to two grown children, James and Helen. When asked recently what his mom does for a living, James, now 26-years-old responded, “I don’t know what she does exactly, but I do know how she makes people feel. Seen, heard, empowered and loved.”
The William C. Friday Award, established in 2000, is named in honor of the late president of the UNC System. It is presented to individuals who carry on Friday’s dedication to leadership, scholarship, service, and character. The recipient of the William C. Friday Award is selected by the senior class of Park Scholars each year with input from the current UNC System president.
Past recipients of the William C. Friday Award include NC State Chancellor Emeritus Larry Monteith, General Hugh Shelton, noted historian John Hope Franklin, Special Olympics of North Carolina CEO and President Keith Fishburne, Ambassador James A. Joseph, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, behavioral economist Dan Ariely, CORRAL Riding Academy Founder and President Joy Currey, former UNC System President Tom Ross, Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Founder and CEO Amy Gage Wright, GrowingChange Founder Noran Sanford, A Place at the Table Founder and Executive Maggie Kane, Bree Newsome Bass, activist, filmmaker, and Julius Tillery, artist, figure and leader in environmental, agricultural, and racial justice in North Carolina.