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Fellowship Story
William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations
The Friday Fellowship Story

The William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations is a program of the Wildacres Leadership Initiative. The fellowship honors the legacy of longtime UNC system president Bill Friday, who charged the first class of fellows with embracing personal growth and learning in the service of all North Carolinians. William C. “Bill” Friday (1920–2012) was a leader whose impact was measured, in part, by the relationships he built across the state. An exemplar civil servant and adaptive leader, Bill Friday modeled a quality of presence that the Friday Fellowship practices and promotes. Responding to Bill Friday’s call for leadership marked by both courage and grace, the fellowship equips North Carolinians with opportunities for deep engagement with their own—and others’—leadership practices.


The Friday Fellowship Call

With human relations at the core of the fellowship’s mission and design, fellows step into relationship with one another while evaluating their power, place, and purpose in a changing world. Today’s leaders face mounting challenges, many of which are rooted in inequities sewn into the fabric of a fraying democratic society. The Friday Fellowship prepares leaders to navigate the differences that divide communities by embracing adaptability and accountability. Following Bill Friday’s example, the fellowship inspires conversations and collaborations that allow fellows to imagine and create a more inclusive and innovative future. A celebration of relationship and an invitation to dialogue, the purpose of the Friday Fellowship is to seek and serve a new generation of courageous leaders ready to model civility and collaboration with one another and with communities across the state.  

The fellowship seats a cohort of approximately 25 North Carolinians who come together across lines of difference to participate in a two-year program. The program is structured in six weekend seminars hosted at retreat centers across the state. Each cohort begins its journey at Wildacres Retreat in McDowell County. Established by the Blumenthal family as a gathering place for the betterment of human relations, Wildacres anchors the fellowship in both place and practice. Traveling to the mountaintop together, fellows are invited to balance relationship building with personal reflection.

Friday Fellows model humility and continuous learning, and are courageous risk-takers seeking to create innovation through their work in the world. For the past 25 years, the fellowship has invited cross-sector leaders into a process of relationship building that asks fellows to examine their own - and others’ - lives and leadership practices. As a statewide fellowship invested in the flourishing of all North Carolinians, the Friday Fellowship promotes the transformation made possible when we are present to one another and committed to engaging across difference. Since its founding in 1995, the fellowship program has graduated over 200 cross-sector leaders whose relationships model the value of interdependence in an increasingly polarized North Carolina.

Early fellowship classes shared experiences rooted in adaptive leadership and the values of integrity, intention, and inclusion. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the fellowship is refining these core commitments to respond more fully to 21st century learning and leading. The 11th Class of William C. Friday Fellows will begin its two-year journey in October 2020. Individually, and as a cohort, 2020–2022 Friday Fellows will build on their innate curiosity, courage, creativity, and connectivity to nurture relationships capable of transforming North Carolinians and their communities.
Applications are not yet being accepted for the 12th class of Friday Fellows.
Information about the next application cycle will be posted on the website.

Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.