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Friday December 2nd

Ida Friday, wife of former UNC-system president, dies at 97

<p>Ida Friday poses for a picture with her husband Bill. Both Fridays have since passed away.</p>
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Ida Friday poses for a picture with her husband Bill. Both Fridays have since passed away.

Ida Howell Friday was a lifelong advocate for women’s rights and social justice — and the wife of former UNC-system President Bill Friday.

She always had a focus on people, said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt in an emailed statement. 

“She was a tireless advocate for social issues, particularly those that helped women and the less fortunate in our society,” she said in the statement. 

Ida Friday, who died Feb. 6 at the age of 97, was a founding member of the Community Church of Chapel Hill Unitarian Universalist in 1953. Frankie Price Stern, a member of Community Church, met Ida Friday after she helped found the church.

“She was very much in favor of the work that was being done by the Community Church that had to do with the civil rights movement," she said.

Stern said Ida Friday was always dedicated to children specifically, among her many other causes of interest. 

“And it was all about the children, and the generations and the church," Stern said. "And they were always there at that particular service." 

Cordelia Heaney, executive director of the Compass Center for Women and Families, a Chapel Hill-based organization focused on domestic violence prevention, did not know Ida Friday personally but said she was crucial to the founding of the center.

“She played a key role in the early days of the Women's Center, which later became Compass Center for Women and Families, and was an advocate for women's issues in our community,” Heaney said in an email.

Bill and Ida Friday were honored by UNC with the establishment of the William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education in 1991. The center serves adult students through various course offerings and has had over 2.5 million participants since its inception. 

"With her many interests and talents, Ida believed in the tenets of lifelong learning and worked alongside her husband to promote educational access for all North Carolinians," the UNC press release said. 

The Fridays were both graduates of UNC, where Bill Friday earned a law degree and Ida Friday earned a master's degree in public health. 

"After earning her Masters of Public Health from Carolina, Ida endowed a scholarship to honor a professor of hers," the UNC press release said. "As of 2016, 71 students have benefited from this scholarship."

Bill Friday served as the UNC-system president for 30 years. The two were married for 70 years before Bill Friday died in 2012

“There was a lot of love and caring between the two of them,” Stern said. “But she obviously was probably intellectually his equal.”

Stern said Ida Friday was prominent in leadership within the community, and that she always wanted to represent how strongly she and Bill felt about the future of North Carolina. 

“She was just a serene person through it all," Stern said. "But also was a settled leader in her own right."

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