10/13/12 — Friday's legacy: There is much to be learned from the man who molded UNC

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Friday's legacy: There is much to be learned from the man who molded UNC

The stories about former University of North Carolina president Bill Friday are legendary, but they all begin with one clear statement: What made UNC's president so special was his unadulterated love for the university.

It would seem that would be a prerequisite for anyone who held such a position of leadership -- a man charged with helping guide a college from the middle of the 20th century until it reached the doorsteps of the 21st century.

But for Bill Friday, his devotion to the university was about more than facts, figures and a bottom line. It really wasn't about prestige and a national reputation either, although those were welcomed byproducts of his hard work.

Those who knew him well say that until the day he died, Bill Friday simply loved the University of North Carolina and its students and he wanted the best for them.


There are many accolades to share about this education icon. He achieved so much -- and led UNC to a position of respect and honor by demanding excellence in every aspect of the university's development. He wanted the best and he achieved it -- with a lot of hard work, long hours and a personality that encouraged others to offer their best as well.

But there is something else to take away from the story of Bill Friday's life -- and the legacy he will leave for those who not only work at the University of North Carolina, but for all those who have chosen education as their career.

For Bill Friday, being president of a university -- and a trusted adviser afterward -- was not about the bricks and mortar.

It was about the people -- both those who worked there and those who chose to pursue their education there.

He knew the work he was doing was for them -- and they were his pride and joy, even when his days as their president were over.

And that is what is missing today from many campuses across the nation -- and in some school districts as well.

It is about the students -- at least it should be. Those who lead should think about that first -- before athletic victories, prestigious awards and rankings.

It should be about giving young people a chance to pursue their dreams -- and showing them that hard work will pay off.

The University of North Carolina system is Bill Friday's crowning achievement. Those bricks and mortar will forever be a part of his story.

But his legacy lies in the lives and memories of thousands of UNC students and alumni who have built lives on the lessons he and his university taught them.

Somehow, one thinks that the latter would be the one of which he would be most proud.

Published in Editorials on October 13, 2012 11:26 PM