North Carolina-James Goodknight-January 25

North Carolina People, Places, and Things-January 25

I am the dad to five adult children. As they were growing up I attempted to remind them they were special and to implore them to learn something new. My goal was to do that daily.

In 2016 my goal is to learn something new daily on the people, places, and things that make North Carolina special.

The richest North Carolinian was born in Salisbury, lived in Greensboro, NC until he was twelve, and went to high school in Wilmington, NC. He attended New Hanover HS and was greatly influenced by his high school chemistry teacher.

New Hanover

He went on to earn three college degrees all from NC State. After earning his Ph.D in statistics from NC State he became a faculty member at NC State from 1972-1976. During that time he began working on creating statistical programs that would analyze agriculture data.

The North Carolinian I am talking about is James Goodknight who is often recognized as the Tarheel State wealthiest citizen.

James Goodknight

James Goodnight founded the business analytics software firm SAS in 1976 after he and another NC State faculty member John Sall had 100 customers for their statistical programs.


James Goodnight has been at the helm of SAS since its inception.  He has steered the private company to continuous growth. Today those 100 customers in 1976 have grown to 75,000 companies around the world using one of SAS’s products.

Mr. Goodnight owns two-thirds of the company, which is known for employee-friendly programs that include sports leagues, day care, and on-site dry cleaning. One of the great treats I have every received was getting a tour of SAS a decade ago. Amazing place to work.

Today John Sall and James Goodnight have made education the focus of the company’s philanthropy. The two partners founded private school Cary Academy, and they also own a country club and a hotel.

Mr. Goodknight’s wife Ann has been a leader on the UNC Board of Governor’s for a long time until her term expired in 2015. She has received numerous honors from educational entities across the state.

Photo below shows her at a William Friday Medal Ceremony. (l-r) The late UNC President Emeritus William Friday and Ann Goodknight.

Ann Goodknight

The hotel called Umstead is one of North Carolina finest. Proud to say I have stayed there once.

Umstead Hotel

Umstead Hotel

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