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YWCA named in honor of Frye

By Yasmine Regester / June 3, 2016

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Shirley Taylor Frye

Shirley Taylor Frye

The Greensboro YWCA honored longtime educator, philanthropist and community leader, Shirley Taylor Frye by naming its newly renovated 19,300 square foot permanent facility in her honor. She was honored in a ceremony on Thursday, May 26 at the YWCA.

Frye, who called the celebration “a humbling experience,” noted that the Y has given her much more than she ever gave it.

“I have gotten so much more from the YWCA than I have given,” said Frye adding that it helped develop her leadership and organizational skills. “Helping people is a part of my DNA. I believe the greatest leader is one who serves the people. I have devoted my life in the service of others. The YWCA helped me get there,” said Frye.

Located at 1807 E. Wendover Avenue, the Shirley T. Frye YWCA building was purchased and renovated as part of the YWCA’s Courage and Commitment capital campaign. It houses YWCA programs including Passion to Purse, Young Women in Charge, a Teen Parent Mentor Program, Healthy Beginnings, Partners for Healthy Youth, and a family emergency shelter. More than $4 million has been raised towards a $5 million fundraising goal.
An organization with a mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, the YWCA is among one of the first buildings in Greensboro to be named solely after an African American woman, other than a school.

Born in 1932 on the outskirts of Fremont, N.C., Frye made her way to Greensboro at the age of 15 and was drawn to North Carolina A&T State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in education and English. She later received a Master of Science degree with honors in psychology and special education, from Syracuse University.

Frye served on the National YWCA Board from 1973 to 1987 and on the YWCA Greensboro Board of Directors from 1963 to 1970, where she served as board president from 1970-72. As the Administrative Committee President of the Negro Branch of YWCA Greensboro in 1970, Frye helped lead the merger of Greensboro’s two segregated YWCAs, which later became the first civic organization in the city to integrate its board, staff, membership and programs, according to the YWCA board. Among numerous other awards, the YWCA honored Frye with the YWCA Living Legend Award in 2003 and the YWCA Woman of the Year Award in 1984.

The YWCA Board of Directors chose Frye in a unanimous vote, citing her years of dedicated community service and leadership.

“Through her work on behalf of all of us, Shirley embodies the strength, courage and leadership the YWCA works to build in girls and women every day,” said YWCA CEO, Lindy Garnette. “Now, because of this decision our board has made, for generations, every time anyone says the name ‘Shirley Frye’ and passes through these doors, they will be inspired and reminded that a voice is the most powerful thing on earth, and our service to our community and each another truly does make a difference.”

Anne Hummel, a YWCA board member and Courage and Commitment Campaign co-chair, spoke on behalf of the board saying Frye’s leadership abilities exemplify the impact women can have in a community.

“I am thrilled to be a part of a moment where we had the opportunity to permanently honor such a remarkable woman. There is no better name or inspiration than Shirley T. Frye. If those who learn, grow and lead in this building will go out in the world and accomplish half of what Shirley has, there is hope for all of us and future generations,” said Hummel.

Yvonne Johnson, City of Greensboro Mayor Pro Tem, noted that Frye was her Girl Scout leader and has been inspiring young ladies to be good community stewards for decades.

“Mrs. Frye was great at influencing young ladies to volunteer in the community to help make it better. She is one whose life has been one of service,” said Johnson, who added that Frye is assisting her OneStep Further organization with fundraising efforts.

Frye worked in various education and community positions from 1953-2007, including a teacher of second grade and exceptional children at Washington Elementary School in Greensboro; an administrator at Bennett College; Assistant Vice-Chancellor of Development and University Relations, and Assistant Director of the University Foundation at North Carolina A&T State University.

She is serving or has served on various boards and foundations such as the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce (1969-1970); Joseph McKinley Bryan Foundation (1989-present); GlaxoSmithKline Foundation (1991-present); the North Carolina A&T State University Foundation (2002-present) where she currently serves as president; Housing Opportunities for North Carolina (2000-14); National Conference for Community and Justice (1999-present); Greensboro Partnership (2005-14); and the North Carolina Society (2005-present).

Frye also served as chair of the Center City Master Plan Steering Committee of Action Greensboro, a nonprofit aimed at enhancing the city around higher education, economic development and local government. She has served on the former Greensboro City Schools Board of Education, as vice chairwoman of the United Arts Council of Greensboro and as vice chairwoman of the United Way of Greater Greensboro.

Frye also held the position of vice president of community relations for the Greensboro CBS affiliate, WFMY-TV for more than 10 years.
Frye has served on the Boards of Visitors or Advisory Boards of Guilford College, Greensboro College, Wake Forest University, Court Watch of North Carolina, North Carolina Humanities Council, Kids Voting and Reading Connections.

Frye is also a member of, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc., 100 Black Women, Women Administrators in Higher Education, and a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Frye is the recipient of more than 25 honors and awards including the Governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in 1985, honorary doctorates from Bennett College in 2005 and UNC-Greensboro in 2006, and the 2008 Greensboro Partnership Distinguished Citizen Award. She is also the recipient of the Athena Award, for the promotion of women, and the Nathanael Greene Award, for community service.

Frye, has been married for 58 years to Judge Henry E. Frye, the first African American elected to the N.C. State legislature in the twentieth century and the first to become Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. The Fryes received the 1991 Brotherhood Citation Award from the National Conference of Community and Justice (NCCJ), honoring their work in the community.

“You have only one opportunity to make an impression, so you must put all that you have into it. Once you do that and do the very best you can, you will see the impact of your efforts,” said Frye.

Frye acknowledged the support of her family and the people she worked with over the years who helped her accomplish so much.

“I have a very deep interest in volunteerism, its evolving definition, its optimal utilization, and its optimal survival. I have taken my zeal and enthusiasm that I learned through my experiences within the YWCA with me each day of my life. I think one can do a lot of things with the support of family and the team around them,” said Frye. “I just do what I can do.”




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