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James Goodnight
Jim Goodnight.jpg
James Goodnight at the World Economic Forum in Cologny, Geneva.
Born January 6, 1943
Salisbury, NC
Nationality American
Other names James H. Goodnight, Jim Goodnight
Alma mater North Carolina State University
Occupation Entrepreneur, CEO, Statistician, Software Engineer, Inventor
Net worth Increase US$ 7.3 billion[1]

Dr. James "Jim" Goodnight (born January 6, 1943) is a businessman and software programmer best known for being co-founder and CEO of SAS Institute for more than 35 years. Goodnight grew up in North Carolina, where he attended North Carolina State University and became a faculty member. He co-founded SAS Institute in 1976, where his leadership style and the work environment he supports became a subject of business and academic study. Goodnight's leadership was influenced by his experiences in a high turnover environment working on the Apollo program.

Early Life[edit]

Jim Goodnight was born to Albert Goodnight and Dorothy Patterson in Salisbury, NC, on January 6th, 1943.[2] He lived in Greensboro, NC, until he was 12, when his family moved to Wilmington. In his youth, he often worked in his father's hardware store.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] Goodnight is also a member of the social fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon.[6] With contributions from other alumni in Tau Kappa Epsilon, Goodnight was responsible for the building of a new fraternity house which was completed in 2002.[3]

He received a Master's in statistics in 1968.[3] While working on his Master's, Goodnight’s 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 would communicate with the Apollo space capsules.[7][8][9] While working on the Apollo program, Goodnight experienced a work environment that had an annual turnover rate of approximately 50 percent. This shaped Goodnight’s views on corporate culture and his future role as an employer. Goodnight returned to North Carolina State University after working on the Apollo project. He earned a PhD in statistics and became an assistant professor in 1972.[8][9]

SAS Institute[edit]

At North Carolina State University Goodnight joined faculty in a research project to create a general purpose statistical software package for analyzing agricultural data.[10] When the National Institute of Health discontinued funding in 1972, a consortium consisting mainly of southern agricultural experiment stations, chipped in $5,000 per year to keep developing and maintaining the system.[11] By 1976, SAS had more than 100 customers. Goodnight and three others from the University left the college to form SAS Institute and opened their first office across the street in 1976.[12][5]

Leadership style[edit]

Goodnight’s leadership style at SAS Institute has been studied by academics, businesses and the media. Goodnight was named a Great American Business Leader by Harvard and one of America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs by Inc. Magazine. He has also been a frequent speaker and participant at the World Economic Forum.[5][13][14]

Goodnight is considered methodical and consistent in an era where frantic volatility and greed are commonplace.[9][15] He doesn’t support distinguishing “suits” from “creatives”.[9] He has been a "stalwart protector" of SAS’ corporate culture for more than 35 years, rejecting acquisition offers and refusing to go public to protect a work environment often referred to as “legendary” or “utopian”.[2][8][13][16][17][18]

Creativity is a central theme in Goodnight’s leadership style, which has been broken down into a framework of three best practices:[9]

  • Help employees do their best work by keeping them intellectually challenged and by removing distractions.
  • Make managers responsible for sparking creativity, and eliminating arbitrary distinctions between “suits” and “creatives.”
  • Engage customers as creative partners to help deliver superior products.

Personal life[edit]

Jim Goodnight met his wife, Ann, while he was a senior at NC State and she was attending Meredith College. They have three kids.[2] As owner of two-thirds of one of the world’s largest software companies, Goodnight is America’s 43rd richest individual with a net worth of approximately $7.3 billion.[19] There is some speculation about Goodnight’s retirement and succession plan. Goodnight, currently in his 60s, is not currently considering retirement.[17][20]


Goodnight has an interest in improving the state of education, particularly elementary and secondary education.[3] In 1997, Goodnight and SAS co-founder John Sall founded Cary Academy. Goodnight’s wife Ann also supports the school and is very active in education initiatives.[21] Both of the Goodnights are also involved in the local Cary, NC, community.[22] He owns Prestonwood Country Club, located in Cary, North Carolina.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Forbes Jim Goodnight net worth". 
  2. ^ a b c Maney, Kevin (April 21, 2004). "SAS Workers Won When Greed Lost". USA Today. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Stamper, Jason (November 24, 2010). "SAS: It's a family affair". Computer Business Review. 
  4. ^ Crayton, Cherry. "Red & White for Life What does Roman Gabriel have to do with SAS?". Red & White for Life. 
  5. ^ a b c Official SAS Institute biography
  6. ^ Tau Kappa Epsilon: Beta Beta Chapter
  7. ^ Raleigh News & Observer. "Ann and Jim Goodnight." December 31, 2006. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c Stallard, Michael (June 18, 2010). "Has SAS Chairman Jim Goodnight Cracked the Code of Corporate Culture?". The Economic Times. Retrieved December 12, 2012.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "twelve" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  9. ^ a b c d e Building a Winning Corporate Culture – Jim Goodnight and SAS, HSM Global 
  10. ^ Kaplan, David (January 22, 2010). Fortune Retrieved September 27, 2011.  Text "title SAS: A new no. 1 best employer" ignored (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Presented at Duke University. SAS Institute FDA Intellectual Partnership for Efficient Regulated Research Data Archival and Analyses. April 12, 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2011.
  12. ^ SAS corporate timeline. March 3, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
  13. ^ a b By Rich Karklgaard, Forbes. “Jim Goodnight: King of Analytics.” Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  14. ^ By Anthony O’Donnell, Insurance & Technology. “Jim Goodnight: Analytics Revolutionary.” Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  15. ^ By Steve Lohr, The New York Times. “At a Software Powerhouse, the Good Life Is Under Siege.” November 21, 2009.Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  16. ^ By Ellen Bankert, Mary Dean Lee and Candice Lange. The Wharton Work/Life Roundtable: A Division of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project University of Pennsylvania. “SAS Institute: A case (with teching note) on the role of senior business leaders in driving work/life cultural change.”
  17. ^ a b By Quentin Hardy, Forbes. “SAS-We Spurned IBM, Now to Win.” June 9, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  18. ^ By N Shivapriya, The Economic Times. “SAS Steams Along as Unlisted Firms Amid US Financial Chaos.” September 25, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  19. ^ "James Goodnight". Forbes. Retrieved December 6, 2011.  More than one of |work= and |newspaper= specified (help)
  20. ^ WRAL. “Any plans to retire? No, SAS co-founder Jim Goodnight insists.” October 29, 2008.
  21. ^ Knowledge @ Wharton. “SAS Institute CEO Jim Goodnight on Building Strong Companies -- and a More Competitive U.S. Workforce.” January 5, 2011.
  22. ^ Raleigh News and Observer. “Citizen Goodnight”. July 21, 1996. Retrieved December 6, 2011.

External links[edit]

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