The William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education opened in 1991 to serve as a conference facility for the university. Located a few miles from campus and convenient to Interstate 40, the site offers an expansive space and plenty of parking, features increasingly hard to find on the crowded main campus. The Friday Center also serves as the home of UNC—Chapel Hill's continuing education efforts, offering programs and classes to anyone interested in learning, regardless of their affiliation with the university.
The center is named for one of UNC's most influential leaders, William C. Friday, and his wife, Ida Friday. William Friday earned his undergraduate degree at North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering and a law degree from UNC. He spent his entire career in higher education, serving first as dean of students at UNC and then as assistant to the president of the UNC System. Friday was appointed president of the consolidated university (later the UNC System) in 1956 and remained in the job until 1986, making him the longest-serving president in the system's history. Ida Howell Friday was a graduate of Meredith College and the UNC School of Public Health. A painter and sculptor, she also supported local historic preservation, civil rights, women's rights, and the arts.
Friday's tenure as president was marked by incredible growth and change. The system grew from three schools to sixteen as the state substantially increased its commitment to public higher education. Friday's time as president also saw multiple controversies. Early in his tenure he had to deal with the Dixie Classic gambling scandal and the state's Speaker Ban Law. For much of the 1970s Friday struggled to refute and then respond to accusations from the federal Department of Housing, Education, and Welfare that the UNC System was not providing equal funding and support for African American students.
Friday remained wary of the influence of college athletics throughout his career. In his retirement he was one of the cofounders of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, which sought to provide analysis and support for universities trying to manage the rapid growth and influence of athletics. For many years Friday hosted the North Carolina People interview program on UNC-TV and was one of the best-known figures in the state.
Date Established: 1988
Date Range: 1988 – Present