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Remembering the Legacy of William Friday

posted 2012.10.16

The Park Scholarships community joins many around the state and nation in mourning the loss of one of the program’s first and most loyal friends, William C. Friday, who passed away on October 12. Friday served as president of the University of North Carolina system for 30 years, and he later played a key role in the founding of the Park Scholarships.

In the fall of 1995, nearly ten years into his retirement, Friday collaborated with University of North Carolina President Dick Spangler, NC State Chancellor Larry Monteith, faculty member and administrator Art Padilla, and others in creating a vision and developing a plan for a major new program at NC State. “From the very start, Friday was involved with the development of the Park Scholarships program,” says Padilla. Friday held Roy Park, who had passed away two years prior, in high regard. He said of his fellow NC State graduate, “Always of good humor and with a generous heart, he moved among his peers sharing of himself gladly in the service of others.”

At the end of the first meeting that fall to discuss the concept, Padilla recalls Friday’s commitment: “We’ll work on this together.” He followed through on that promise. A proposal to the Park Foundation was written, and when it was nearly finished, Friday agreed to Padilla’s request that he write the all-important introduction. “President Friday wrote the first page of the Park Scholarships proposal himself,” said Padilla.

The Park Foundation approved the proposal, and the first Park Scholars were soon named. Friday supported the program’s growth in the years that followed. In 2005, he featured Laura Lunsford, the program’s director, on North Carolina People, his long-running program on UNC-TV. Recalling Friday’s assistance, Padilla said, “Even after the program was established, he frequently provided valuable suggestions and advice. He had a special relationship with the Park Scholars.”

Members of the Class of 2011 William C. Friday Award Committee with William Friday.

Begun in 1999, the William C. Friday Award is an annual honor presented by the senior class of Park Scholars on behalf of the entire program. “Mr. Friday’s support has remained steadfast, as he continued to meet with Park Scholars annually to select the recipient of the award he so generously allowed to be created in his name,” says Park Scholarships Director Eva Feucht. “In fact, just a few days before his passing, he provided his input on the Class of 2013’s William C. Friday Award recipient.”

The award honors Friday’s excellence in leadership, scholarship, character, and service, and recognizes individuals who emulate Friday’s dedication to those principles. Past recipients include NC State Chancellor Emeritus Larry Monteith, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton, noted historian John Hope Franklin, SAS leaders Ann and Jim GoodnightSpecial Olympics of North Carolina CEO and President Keith Fishburne, and Geomagic Co-Founder Ping Fu.

“Mr. Friday was so eager to meet with our committee to help us make our decision,” says former William C. Friday Award Committee Chair Natalie Cooke ‘10. “We were in the presence of one of the most influential people in North Carolina history and I was impressed by his humility and his openness.”

Most recently, the Class of 2012 presented the award to James A. Joseph. Joseph was chosen by President Clinton to serve as ambassador to South Africa and he remained in this role from 1996-1999. He was awarded the Order of Good Hope from the Republic of South Africa, the highest honor presented to a citizen of another country. Following this appointment, Joseph launched the United States-Southern Africa Center for Leadership and Public Values, a partnership between Duke University and the University of Cape Town.

“Mr. Friday was a true North Carolina treasure — his impact on this state is lasting, and we are a better state because of his leadership,” says Cooke.