North Carolina State University’s Park Scholarships Class of 2023 presented the 24th annual William C. Friday Award to Molly Barker on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the Piedmont Ballroom of Talley Student Union.
Barker is an educator, social entrepreneur, and visionary. Barker founded Girls on the Run in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina, to create a community for girls and women to recognize and unravel limiting cultural and societal stereotypes about gender. This self-esteem, youth-development, and healthy lifestyle program has taught and inspired more than 2.5 million girls.
After Barker accepted the award, she spoke about finding the “essence of you” and how running inspired her to change her world.
“I wanted to do something for girls that would give them a space where they could experience the ‘all of them,’ the ‘essence of them.’ And then develop tools of resilience on how to combat the unveiling and the expectations put on them,” Barker said in her acceptance speech.
In 2013, Barker retired from Girls on the Run to serve on the Commission for Political Reform, a group tasked by the Bipartisan Policy Committee. This experience working to close the political divide drove Barker to start her second non-profit, The Red Boot Way, which teaches active listening and profound curiosity when confronted with differing perspectives.
Barker was selected by the Class of 2023 because of her commitment to unraveling societal status quos and fostering community-building dialogue.
“We felt these themes not only honor Friday’s legacy but are also representative of the changes our own class hopes to make in the future,” said Beckett Stillman ‘23 and Annie Kate Watson ‘23, co-chairs of the Park Scholarships Class of 2023 Distinguished Speakers Committee.
The William C. Friday Award, established in 2000, is named in honor of the late Mr. Friday who served as President of the University of North Carolina system for three decades and was a strong supporter of the Park Scholarships program since its inception. For the first 14 years of the award’s existence, William C. Friday personally met with representatives from each class of Park Scholars to select the award recipient. Now, each Park Scholarships class meets with the current UNC System President, Peter Hans, to select someone that embodies Friday’s dedication to leadership, scholarship, service, and character.
Previous recipients for the William C. Friday Award include Special Olympics of North Carolina CEO Keith Fishburne, A Place at the Table founder & executive Maggie Kane, President emeritus of the UNC system Tom Ross, anti-racist activist Bree Newsome Bass, founder of GrowingChange Noran Sanford, and, most recently, Julius Tillery, artist, figure, and leader in environmental, agricultural, and racial justice in North Carolina.