INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA today named William Friday, University of North Carolina president emeritus and chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, recipient of the NCAA President’s Gerald R. Ford Award.
The award, named in recognition of former President Gerald Ford, honors an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics on a continuous basis over the course of his or her career. This is the second year the NCAA has presented the award.
NCAA President Myles Brand will present the award to Friday at the opening business session of the 2005 NCAA Convention, Saturday, January 8, 2005, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. In addition to receiving the award itself, the NCAA will donate $25,000 to the athletics department at the University of North Carolina for programs that directly benefit student-athletes.
“Bill Friday has been a prominent and important figure in public affairs for many years and his career has had a major impact on higher education over the past 60 years,” Brand said. “He continues to serve higher education and intercollegiate athletics well and his 15 years of service to the Knight Commission has been a major contribution.”
Friday’s service on the White House Task Force on Education and his work with the Carnegie Commission on the Future of American Education and the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics have made him an influential figure both inside and outside his home state.
Born on July 13, 1920, William Friday grew up in the small town of Dallas, North Carolina. After attending Wake Forest College, Friday graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering in 1941. He married Ida Howell on May 13, 1942, and served as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve from 1942 until 1946. He received his law degree from the Law School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1948.
From 1948 until 1951 he served as assistant dean of students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was named assistant to President Gordon Gray in 1951. He was appointed Secretary of the University in 1955, named Acting President of the University in 1956, and became President later in the same year. Friday served in this position for 30 years until his retirement in 1986.
As President, 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. Friday was relentless in rallying support to repeal the Speaker Ban Law, which the North Carolina General Assembly had passed in 1963, making it illegal for critics of the government to appear on campus. He tirelessly defended the intellectual freedom of the University and its independence from legislative control until federal courts repealed the ban in 1968. His commitment to education enabled the development of an accomplished faculty at UNC and supported the establishment of rigorous academic standards and the expansion of the university from three to 16 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 served as the first Executive Director of the William R. Kenan, Jr., Charitable Trust, from 1986 to 1996. 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.
Residing in Chapel Hill, William Friday continues to be active in a variety of state and national public service activities, from leadership development to membership on non-profit boards in the private and public sectors.
President Ford was the 38th president of the United States. He was vice-president when he took the oath of office in 1974 after President Richard Nixon resigned, and served as president until 1977.
Ford’s political career began in 1948, when he was elected to congress from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He rose to become House Minority Leader in 1965, a post which he held until appointed to the vice presidency by President Nixon in 1973.
Ford played football at the University of Michigan where he participated on national championship teams in 1932 and 1933. He started every game at center his senior year and was voted most valuable player by teammates. Ford received contract offers from Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, which he turned down in favor of studying law at Yale University. Before beginning his law courses, Ford coached freshman football and boxing.
Ford continued to serve as an advocate for the value of sport his entire career, and he remains an avid golfer at the age of 91.
“Both as a public servant and as an athlete, President Ford embodies the qualities of integrity, achievement and dedication that we aspire to in intercollegiate athletics,” Brand said.