CHAPEL HILL-- On Friday, North Carolinians remembered UNC System President Bill Friday. The 92-year old died Friday morning at his Chapel Hill home. Friday helped shape and led the 17 campus system for 30 years and also served in several leadership rolls at UNC Chapel Hill.
"North Carolina has lost one of its true giants in Bill Friday," reflected UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, who led the campus in celebrating University Day. This year marks the 219th birthday for UNC. With Friday passing away, the day is much more meaningful this
year. Thorp told students and faculty Friday would have wanted them to celebrate the importance of this for day for UNC and for public higher education.
"Just gives us even more reasons to remember all the extraordinary things that he did," said Thorp.
Students and faculty came together and placed flowers on the old well on campus in honor of Friday.
"Mr. Friday's passing on University Day is like Thomas Jefferson passing on July fourth," described Steve Farmer, Vice Provost of Enrollment. "He passed on the birthday of the university that he gave his life to, as sad as it is, it's a fitting time."
Through his leadership at UNC and three decades as president of the UNC System, Friday made it possible for a growing number of students to attend college. Friday was an advocate for low tuition and a strong financial aid system.
"To be the university that is accessible to everybody, those ideas are the ones that Bill Friday first put in place and all of us who have carried those torches since then did it because of him," expressed Thorp.
The fifth and current UNC System President Tom Ross described Friday as his inspiration.
"You can't fill Bill Friday's shoes. The man was a giant in higher education and a leader for North Carolina that we'll never see the like of again I suspect," reflected Ross. "We have a responsibility to serve the people of North Carolina as well in many different capacities and we do that and do it well but his advice was to never forget that and always remember we're the university of the people and so I try to do that."
Many students at UNC never met Friday, but they recognize his life's work he paved the way for them to attend to college.
"We're extremely grateful and very thankful for everything that he's done for the university because he's laid the groundwork for everything as it is now and as it will be in the future," said Joey DeRusso, a UNC senior.
For generations to come, Thorp feels Friday will be remembered as a legendary educational leader who helped the state prosper.
"All of us who have carried those torches since then did it because of him," said Thorp.