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Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Carolina threw a 90th birthday party on Tuesday for Bill Friday ’48 (LLB), and hundreds of happy friends of the emeritus president of the UNC System turned out.

William C. Friday '48.

William C. Friday ’48 (LLB) (Photo by Dan Sears ’74)

The event, held at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center, was a public event — everyone was invited, as GAA President Doug Dibbert ’70 noted in his remarks, “and it looks as if everyone is here.”

Hundreds of people — from past chancellors to faculty members to friends from throughout the state — waited in a receiving line for up to an hour before greeting Friday and his wife, Ida ’47 (MPH), who marked her 90th birthday in December.

After a North Carolina-shaped chocolate cake was rolled out and those assembled sang happy birthday wishes, Friday addressed the crowd:

“I’ve been around this place since February 1946, and I’ve never been so overwhelmed in my life,” he said.

“This is such a wonderful, wonderful gathering. I can look out here and see your faces. I can tell a story about each one of you. This has been some experience I’ve had, and what a wonderful experience it has been for Ida and me.

“I was thinking this morning about this occasion, how wonderful it is to be a part of something, as each of us is here, that’s so much the force that makes the state what it is. I was thinking about teaching … and the research you’ve done to make this institution the great place that it is. And you can’t think of Chapel Hill without something that’s very critical to this place, and that is what you’ve done in reaching out from this campus to impact the lives of thousands of people. Think of what Albert Coates [’18] did in making better government, and Howard Odum did in social welfare, and Paul Green [’21] did in teaching us all drama and music and history.

“But Ida and I want each of you to understand one thing and one thing very clearly: This University has been made what it is by each of you and the contributions you make every day in the classroom and in the laboratory and out across the land. So this occasion is really a celebration of all of you. You’ve given us the privilege of being a part of it, and we thank you so much for being here and we pray that the good Lord will bless and keep you and make his face to smile upon you — until each of you is 90 years old. So, thanks.”

Friday was president of the UNC System from 1956 to 1986. The birthday celebration, hosted by the University and the GAA, was a drop-in occasion from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday in The Carolina Club’s Alumni Hall at the Alumni Center. Guests began arriving an hour before the doors opened for the event and continued to arrive until shortly before 6 p.m.

As they waited to greet the Fridays, many of the well-wishers filled out greeting cards, which were collected into a memory book prepared by GAA staff.

For those who couldn’t make the birthday toast, greetings may be sent to Friday at his home, 521 Hooper Lane, Chapel Hill, NC 27514


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