Founding Co-Chairman, 1989-2005
William C. Friday was the founding co-chairman of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Friday served as the President of the University of North Carolina for thirty years until his retirement in 1986.
In 1989, Friday and the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, were tapped as chairmen of the newly-formed Knight Commission. The two men led the Commission together until 2000, when Father Hesburgh retired. Mr. Friday remained chairman until May 2005, when he announced that Thomas K. Hearn Jr., outgoing president of Wake Forest University, would take his place.
Under Friday’s and Hesburgh’s leadership, the Commission successfully advocated for presidential control of intercollegiate athletics, rigorous academic standards for athletes, and a certification process requiring athletics departments to prove that they were running fiscally responsible, equitable, and ethical sports programs.
At North Carolina, Friday worked to ensure fairness and integrity in the university through the conflicts arising from desegregation and the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s, mediating between a conservative legislature and student activists. His commitment to education enabled the development of an accomplished, excellent faculty at UNC and supported the establishment of rigorous academic standards and the expansion of the university from three to sixteen campuses, fostering the university’s reputation as one of the most respected institutions of higher education in the country.
William Friday has served in leadership roles on a number of national committees, boards, and commissions, among them the Association of American Universities; the Commission on White House Fellows; the Presidential Task Force on Education under two administrations; and the Board of Governors of the Center for Creative Leadership. He has been honored with many awards for his service, including the American Council on Education’s Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1986, the National Humanities Medal in 1997, and the American Academy for Liberal Education’s Jacques Barzun Award in 1999. In 1986, a study by the Council of Advancement and Support of Education rated him the most effective public university president in the nation.
In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association presented Friday with the Gerald R. Ford Award for “significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis over the course of his career.”
William Friday graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering in 1941 and received his law degree from the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1948. Friday served as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve from 1942 until 1946.
Please LINK HERE for a Tribute to William C. Friday, 1920-2012.