President Friday passes away on University Day

Bill Friday

Thomas Jefferson died July 4, 1826. President Friday passed away October 12, 2012 (University Day). As the man who embodied UNC, the date was fitting. President Friday lived a full, meaningful life, and yet, his death came too soon. There was collective sadness among us as we celebrated University Day, honored our distinguished alumni, two of whom (Gregory Stanley Allgood and Deborah Parham Hopson) were graduates of the public health school, and listened to Jamie Bartram, Don and Jennifer Holzworth Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering, as he called us to action about the importance of water in our world.

In this time of tumult and turmoil for the University, many, including me, viewed President Friday as a man whose conscience and values constituted his own true north, and ours as well. People may have disagreed with some of his positions, but they could not question his integrity.

Friday and Bowles at 2008 SPH Naming CeremonyPresident Friday had a long, warm relationship with our School that was rooted in his love for Ida Friday. When they first were married, his new wife Ida worked on her Master of Public Health degree and taught classes at the School. William Friday was a frequent visitor, and he spoke with great affection about those days. Friday was proud of the former Health Behavior chair, Dr. Lucy Morgan, who invited African-American students from North Carolina Central University to dinners with UNC public health students at her home when the campus was still segregated.

When I became dean, I walked to President Friday’s office at Graham Memorial to seek his advice about leading the School. His words to me were powerful and lasting. Most important, he said, was never to forget the people of North Carolina or fail to appreciate the generosity of this state to the University.

Even as we took global into our name at an event President Friday attended and celebrated with his wife Ida, we have not forgotten his advice. We always have been and always will be the public school of public health in North Carolina. We’re committed to making North Carolina better, because we are here.

Bill & Ida FridayEven as we have broadened our global reach (although from its earliest days, faculty members and students in the School had many global activities), we balance global with local. Sure, North Carolina is part of the world—but as we reach out to countries around the world, we look to what can be applied at home or what can be translated from home to other countries. We always ask how we can make North Carolina even better. That’s one of the many ways in which President Friday made us all better.

It’s the end of an era, and that makes me really sad. Happy Monday, and always remember Friday. Barbara

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