James Goodnight

NET WORTH: $9 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Cofounder of SAS Institute

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Arts & Culture 

OVERVIEW: Goodnight is a true champion of education, having donated well over a billion dollars to education programs and initiatives. These primarily focus on his home state of North Carolina, but he's also given to eduational organizations throughout the country through his company, SAS. 

BACKGROUND: If there is one thing that can be said about James Goodnight (he prefers to be called "Jim"), it's that he has a passion for almost everything he does. SAS Institute is now the largest privately owned software company in the world. Goodnight chose not to take the company public, and has often declined overtures from other companies to buy SAS.

PHILOSOPHY: Goodnight believes that an educated workforce is the best path to economic success. "Happy employees lead to happy customers and a healthy company. If a company treats its people like they make a difference, they will make a difference," he has said.  He understands the value of a good work environment, and decided early on to provide his employees with free drinks and snacks. He built them a beach volleyball court, an indoor racquetball court, and a wellness center so that they could stay fit on breaks. The SAS offices also have an on-site day care center for parents. When the economy took a major hit, Goodnight made a promise to SAS employees that there would be no layoffs, and he has kept that promise. Recently, the company was named one of the top 25 places to work in the world. 


EDUCATION: Goodnight cofounded Cary Academy, a college prep school for grades 6 through 12 in Cary, North Carolina. Cary Academy is located near the SAS campus and is intended to be a model 6-12 school that places a strong emphasis on the use of technology in all aspects of education, focusing on a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum, and smaller class sizes. Upon enrollment, students are issued tablet computers.

Through SAS, Goodnight also supports K-12 and higher education with products and services that are designed to improve teaching, learning, and administration by providing administrators with a complete picture of such areas as enrollment, attendance, assessments, and transportation. With this information, they can get a handle on their school's effectiveness. Through products such as Curriculum Pathways, SAS works with schools and districts statewide, nationally, and internationally to improve education, especially in the STEM fields.

SAS donates around $24 million in cash and in-kind contributions to non-profit programs. K-12 academic institutions in North Carolina are given preference in the grantmaking, but SAS does award grants and provide noncash contributions to schools and programs around the nation. Among the programs it supports are:

  • Triangle High Five, which supports "the development and sustainability of professional learning communities within the North Carolina Triangle Region and across the state" of North Carolina
  • DonorsChoose.org, which connects individual donors with classrooms in need

Recent grants from SAS include the following:

  • $100,000 to North Carolina New Schools to support its college success strategies program in 10 rural and low-income schools located in the state
  • $43,000 to Flipping the Classroom, a program that provides laptops for middle school algebra teachers
  • $41,000 to the Singapore Math Pilot, a program aimed at improving math education for elementary-age students

Additionally, Goodnight has made gifts to several other educational institutions, including $5 million to the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, and $3 million to his alma mater, North Carolina State University, to help establish a graduate business degree program for analytics. He has donated personal computers to a number of North Carolina high schools, and in what may be his single largest gift so far, Goodnight donated $970 million to Wake County's school construction bond proposal in 2006.

ARTS & CULTURE: At this point Goodnight is more of a patron than an arts philanthropist, but he plans to donate his fairly substantial art collection to the North Carolina Museum of Art, and has already donated his rock collection to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. He also provides financial support to the Carolina Ballet.

DISASTER RELIEF: SAS was very involved in assisting Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake in early 2015. The company was able to work with the International Organization for Migration to "analyze shelter data to better allocate resources",  based on other relief work they had done in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.