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July 2010

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Birthday Greetings - July 13

William C. Friday, the former President of the University of North Carolina System, is celebrating his 90th birthday. In honor of the occasion, I'm reprinting most of an entry I wrote in December 2003. Happy Birthday!

Bill Friday is one of my heroes. There aren't that many people who are personal heroes to me. Bill Friday is, because he came from a small town and took advantage of educational opportunities to go down a path that allowed him to do some pretty wonderful things for this state.

And he was from my hometown. He and my father were friends long before my time, and I knew both his parents fairly well. So the fact that he was a nationally known person didn't faze me too much---he was just Bill. Still is. And that's pretty much how he acts, by the way. Nothing pretentious about him. It pleases me, incidentally, that he still remembers my late father, too---it's more than 45 years after Daddy's death.

He was the UNC head when I came to Carolina, of course. And I was witness to some of the challenging times during which he led the University. He led the system with a great deal of grace under a great deal of pressure. Probably every taxpayer in the state has an idea of how the system ought to be run. And this state has a lot of taxpayers who do not hesitate to let their opinions be known.

When I got my diploma from Carolina, I was disappointed with one little thing about it. Bill's signature was engraved on the thing. And never mind that rational Becky knew full well the man didn't have time or the hand strength to sign a bazillion diplomas every year. I just wished he had signed them.

Shortly after I went to work at Non-Profit Agency #1, I ran into Bill one day on Franklin Street. We both had a minute to chat, and I decided to ask for a favor. I asked if he would sign my diploma. It may have been one of the odder favors anyone asked of him, but he said he'd be glad to do it.

So the next time I knew we were going to be in the same place, I put my diploma in my totebag. After the meeting we were attending was over, I had a chance to hand it over and get the requested signature. It's off to the side of the engraved one. And the little girl from Dallas smiles every time she sees it.

Text © copyright 2000-2010 Becky