Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Governor's School of North Carolina

by Kevin Cherry, 2006

The Governor's School of North Carolina is the nation's oldest statewide residential summer program for academically gifted high school students. Founded in 1963 at the urging of Governor Terry Sanford and his adviser John Ehle, the Governor's School was originally funded by a Carnegie Corporation of New York grant and donations from Winston-Salem businesses. In 1966 the General Assembly decided to continue the school with public funds, and in 1978 Governor James B. Hunt Jr. expanded the school to a second campus. The program is open to rising seniors, with exceptions for rising juniors in the performing/visual arts area. Offering a noncredit, six-week curriculum, the school is located on two campuses with 400 students at each: Governor's School West at Salem College in Winston-Salem and Governor's School East at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg.

The State Board of Education and Department of Public Instruction, through the Exceptional Children Division, administers the Governor's School. A board of governors appointed by the State Board of Education serves the program in an advisory capacity. With an emphasis on the study of twentieth-century theories as they relate to the past and the future, the school's curriculum is divided into three major areas. In Area I, students explore their chosen subject area. Area II relates that chosen subject to other topics and fields of study on the abstract level through an investigation of philosophy, ethics, epistemology, and aesthetics. In Area III, students explore the interaction of self with society, learning about their own values, morals, and thought processes. There are no tests, no grades, and little homework.

Each local school superintendent or private school headmaster submits a quota of student names based upon the school population. The top two students chosen by each superintendent are invited to attend Governor's School, and a selection committee chooses remaining students from the pool of eligible candidates. Students in the performing and visual arts also audition.


H. Michael Lewis, Opening Windows onto the Future: Theory of the Governor's School of North Carolina (1969).

Elizabeth Marshall Murray Thomas, A Retrospective Evaluation of the Governor's School of North Carolina (1984).

Additional Resources:

Govenor's School of North Carolina:

North Carolina Governor's School Foundation:

Video Credit:

A Program Unlike Any Other, available from the North Carolina Governor's School Foundation at (accessed November 8, 2012)

Origin - location: