James Goodnight

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James Goodnight
James Howard Goodnight

January 6, 1943 (1943-01-06) (age 77)
Other namesJames H. Goodnight, Jim Goodnight
EducationNorth Carolina State University
OccupationBusinessman and software developer
Net worthUS$9.8 billion (April 2019)[1]
TitleCEO, SAS Institute
Spouse(s)Ann Goodnight

James Howard Goodnight (born January 6, 1943) is an American billionaire businessman and software developer. He has been the CEO of SAS Institute since 1976, which he co-founded that year with other faculty members of North Carolina State University.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Goodnight was born to Albert Goodnight and Dorothy Patterson in Salisbury, North Carolina, on January 6, 1943.[3] He lived in Greensboro, until he was 12, when his family moved to Wilmington. In his youth, he often worked at his father's hardware store.[4][better source needed] Mathematics and chemistry were Goodnight's strongest subjects in school, thanks in part, he says, to a "wonderful chemistry teacher" at New Hanover High School.[5]

Goodnight's career with computers began when he took a computer course his sophomore year at North Carolina State University. At the time, he said, "a light went on, and I fell in love with making machines do things for other people." The following summer he got a job writing software programs for the agricultural economics department.[6] Goodnight is a member of the Beta-Beta chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon at NC State, and with contributions from other alumni Goodnight was responsible for the construction of a new fraternity house for the chapter in 2002.[4]

Goodnight received a master's degree in statistics in 1968.[4] While working on his master's, his curiosity was piqued over the prospect of a man being sent to the moon. His programming skills helped him land a position at a company building electronic equipment for the ground stations that communicated with the Apollo space capsules.[7][8] While working on the Apollo program, Goodnight experienced a work environment that had an annual turnover rate of approximately 50 percent. This shaped his views on corporate culture and his future role as an employer.[8][9] Goodnight returned to North Carolina State University after working on the Apollo project. He earned a PhD in statistics with a thesis titled Quadratic unbiased estimation of variance components in linear models with an emphasis on the one-way classification under the supervision of Robert James Monroe, and became a faculty member from 1972 to 1976.[6]


Goodnight joined another faculty at North Carolina State in a research project to create a general purpose statistical analysis system (SAS) for analyzing agricultural data.[10] The project was operated by a consortium of eight land-grant universities and funded primarily by the USDA. Goodnight along with another faculty member Anthony James Barr became project leaders for the development of the early version of SAS.[11] When the software had 100 customers in 1976, Goodnight and three others from the University left the college to form SAS Institute[12][13] in an office across the street.[6]

Goodnight remained CEO of SAS Institute for more than 35 years as the company grew from $138,000 its first year in business, to $420 million in 1993 and $2.43 billion by 2010.[14] Under his leadership, the company grew each year.[15] Goodnight became known for creating and defending SAS' corporate culture,[16] often described by the media as "utopian."[9][17] He rejected acquisition offers and chose against going public to protect the company's work environment.[3] Goodnight has maintained a flat organizational structure[18] with about 27 people who report directly to him and three organizational layers.[19]

Goodnight at the World Economic Forum in Cologny, Geneva.

HSM Global described Goodnight's leadership style in a framework of three pillars: "help employees do their best work by keeping them intellectually challenged and by removing distractions; Make managers responsible for sparking creativity; eliminate arbitrary distinctions between 'suits' and 'creatives'; Engage customers as creative partners to help deliver superior products."[20]

In 1981 Goodnight was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.[21] In 2004, he was named a Great American Business Leader by Harvard.[4] That same year he was named one of America's 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs by Inc. Magazine.[22] He has also been a frequent speaker and participant at the World Economic Forum.[6]

In March 2020, Jim Goodnight was awarded a CEO Great Place to Work For All Leadership Award by Great Place to Work.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Goodnight met his wife, Ann, while he was a senior at North Carolina State University and she was attending Meredith College. They have been married approximately five decades and have three children.[3][24] Goodnight was the world's 172nd and America's 55th richest individual, with a net worth of approximately $9 billion, as of October 2018.[1]

Goodnight has an interest in improving the state of education, particularly elementary and secondary education.[4] In 1996, Goodnight and his wife, along with his business partner, John Sall and his wife Ginger, founded an independent prep school Cary Academy.[25] Both of the Goodnights are also involved in the local Cary, NC, community. He owns Prestonwood Country Club and The Umstead Hotel and Spa situated on the edge of the SAS campus.[26][27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Forbes profile: James Goodnight". Forbes. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Jim Goodnight, Co-Founder & CEO". www.sas.com. Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  3. ^ a b c Maney, Kevin (April 21, 2004). "SAS Workers Won When Greed Lost". USA Today. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stamper, Jason (November 24, 2010). "SAS: It's a family affair". Computer Business Review.
  5. ^ Crayton, Cherry. "Red & White for Life What does Roman Gabriel have to do with SAS?". Red & White for Life. North Carolina State University.
  6. ^ a b c d Official biography, SAS Institute, retrieved December 13, 2012
  7. ^ Raleigh News & Observer. "Ann and Jim Goodnight." December 31, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  8. ^ a b Stallard, Michael (June 18, 2010). "Has SAS Chairman Jim Goodnight Cracked the Code of Corporate Culture?". The Economic Times. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  9. ^ a b Bankert, Ellen; Lee, Mary Dean; Lange, Candice, "SAS Institute: A case on the role of senior business leaders in driving work/life cultural change" (PDF), The Wharton Work/Life Roundtable: A Division of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project, University of Pennsylvania, SAS Institute has received considerable media attention for the "utopian" environment for which it has become known
  10. ^ Kaplan, David (January 22, 2010). "SAS: A new no. 1 best employer". Fortune. Archived from the original on November 29, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  11. ^ SAS Institute FDA Intellectual Partnership for Efficient Regulated Research Data Archival and Analyses (PDF), Presented at Duke University, April 12, 2000, retrieved September 28, 2011
  12. ^ Lohr, Steve (November 21, 2009). "At a Software Powerhouse, the Good Life Is Under Siege". The New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  13. ^ SAS corporate timeline, WRAL, March 3, 2011, retrieved October 17, 2011
  14. ^ Corporate Statistics, SAS Institute, retrieved August 10, 2011
  15. ^ Buchanan, Leigh (September 2011). "How SAS Continues to Grow". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  16. ^ Hardy, Quentin (June 9, 2011). "SAS-We Spurned IBM, Now to Win". Forbes. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  17. ^ Shivapriya, N (September 25, 2008). "SAS Steams Along as Unlisted Firms Amid US Financial Chaos". The Economic Times. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  18. ^ Fishman, Charles (December 31, 1998). "Sanity Inc". Fast Company. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007.
  19. ^ Joel, Kurtzman. "An Interview with Jeffrey Pfeffer". Strategy+Business.
  20. ^ Building a Winning Corporate Culture – Jim Goodnight and SAS, HSM Global
  21. ^ View/Search Fellows of the ASA, accessed 2016-10-15.
  22. ^ Fenn, Donna. "James Goodnight, SAS". Inc. Magazine. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  23. ^ SAS. "SAS' Jim Goodnight honored with CEO Great Place to Work® For All Leadership Award". www.prnewswire.com. Retrieved 2020-03-05.
  24. ^ "Ann Goodnight collects art and North Carolina benefits | Walter Magazine". Retrieved 2018-12-17.
  25. ^ SAS Institute CEO Jim Goodnight on Building Strong Companies – and a More Competitive U.S. Workforce, Knowledge@Wharton, January 5, 2011, retrieved December 12, 2012
  26. ^ "Citizen Goodnight". Raleigh News and Observer. July 21, 1996. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  27. ^ "The Umstead Hotel, Umstead Spa, And Herons Offer Five Star Luxury In The Triangle". The Raleigh Telegram. Retrieved 7 February 2013.
  28. ^ "Ann Goodnight planning upscale restaurant near hotel". Triangle Business Journal. Retrieved 7 February 2013.

Further reading[edit]

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