The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

October 17, 2012

Turning defeat into victory the William Friday way

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 — By dying on Oct. 12, the 219th anniversary of the university’s founding, UNC President Emeritus William Friday once again turned a seeming defeat into a victory.

It was, some were saying, just like Presidents Jeff-erson and Adams, dying on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding.

Friday’s death leaves the state with a vacancy in the role he played as the state’s public elder who was wise and energetic, our trusted prophet and pastor.

Friday did not become our state’s prophet by divine ordination. He earned it through hard years of bruising struggles in the public arena. He did not always win, but he had an amazing ability to do two things: (1) turn apparent defeats into important and lasting victories, and (2) after even the bitterest battle, reach out and turn his opponents into friends and allies in common endeavors.

Here are some examples:

1. The 1961 crackdown on athletics. Some hard-core athletic fans may not have forgiven Friday for cancelling the Dixie Classic basketball tournament after several N.C. State players were implicated in a point-shaving scandal. Friday’s controversial decision signaled that no matter how popular and profitable university athletics may be, they cannot be allowed to corrupt or supplant the university’s mission of education and service. Friday’s action also gave notice of his decisiveness and resolve.

2. The Speaker Ban Law of 1963. For all his friendships and political savvy, Friday was unable to stop the General Assembly from enacting the law that prohibited “known members” of the Communist Party from speaking on university campuses. Nor was he able to persuade the state’s leadership to make a quick turnaround. But, in the end, his behind-the-scenes maneuvering helped bring down the law, leaving a widespread consensus on the value of free speech.

3. The 1971 merger of all the state’s public colleges and universities into the University of North Caro-lina. People forget that bringing campuses into one state agency was not Friday’s idea. In fact, he and his board fought against it. But when the decision was made, Friday demanded excellence and provided the strong leadership that made our multi-campus state university the envy of every state in the union. His actions in taking charge after the restructuring showed an effective administrative style. According to his biographer, William Link, “That style embodied the qualities of Friday's personality: gregariousness and sensitivity, idealism and cold-hearted efficiency, and unassuming accessibility and constant communication with the state and national power structure. Friday had an innate interest in people and an inherent ability to relate to them.”

4. The establishment of a medical school at East Carolina University. Friday initially fought a new medical school there, but when he recognized its inevitability, according to Link, he determined to make it “as fine a school as you can make it.” While pushing for adequate funding for ECU’s medical school, he used the legislature’s enhanced att-ention to health education to fund expansion of the Chapel Hill medical school and the establishment of “the most ambitious AHEC (Area Health and Education Centers) program in the nation.”  Link writes that the ECU controversy demo-nstrated “Friday’s ability to adapt to new circumstances.”

5. The long controversy with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare over desegregation. Almost forgotten today, Link writes, “Managing the desegregation controversy became the greatest challenge of Bill Friday's leadership and certainly one of the gravest tests the University of North Caro-lina had encountered in its two centuries of existence.”

Once again, Friday’s resiliency in responding to what could be characterized as a series of defeats, resulted in strengthening the university and solidifying his reputation for steady leadership.

William Friday’s victories are too numerous to mention.  But it is his powerful example of turning defeats into lasting achievements that will always inspire me.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Larry's Sketch 7.16.14.tif They don’t give a darn for Duke University

    John “Duke” Wayne’s heirs are suing Duke University over trademark rights.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content