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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Reforming public education in North Carolina

Sanford lists the positive changes to North Carolina higher education that he oversaw as governor. He helped to create new colleges and establish a university program in Greensboro and Charlotte. He also sponsored a new technical institute education system.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Could you reflect a little bit on the politics of higher education in this state? Because there is quite a bit of political infighting that goes on, I know. Are you involved in that with a private university, or do you follow it pretty closely?
I attempt to lead it, not follow it. Well, I think the higher education situation . . . we haven't really talked much about the four years when I was governor and what happened, but that was one reason that I wanted you to have that little booklet. I think that we did a lot of things that are worthy of mention because I set out to be the best governor North Carolina ever had and history will have to determine how successful I was. But I wasn't interested just in improving education. We looked at everything government was doing and we were looking at higher education. I immediately put together a commission to plot a course for higher education in the state, which was in pretty good shape but in some chaos. The previously designated teacher's colleges were becoming liberal arts colleges. In one or two areas, we didn't have adequate public education. In Asheville and Wilmington, we created four year colleges out of rather inadequate junior colleges which had come out of the GI bill. Charlotte, our major city, didn't have any public institution and we created a new campus, or at least laid the groundwork for it and all but put it together by the time I left office. What we did was to establish a pattern that was very, very sound. We had the university at the top. This was the university in the pure sense of the word, that would have the Ph.D., a graduate university. Chapel Hill, State and Greensboro had been part of the Consolidated University. Greensboro was not really a graduate university. Historically, it had been brought in in Max Gardner's term to be a consolidated university. Chapel Hill had gained international stature and so had State. We made Greensboro a full-fledged graduate university and co-educational, which some people might have resented, but it had to be done and now it would have to be done if it hadn't been before. We then set up Charlotte and my concept was that those four, since Charlotte was a major city, we needed a graduate university there but it would take fifteen or twenty years to make it truly a worthwhile university, but we started it. My concept and the concept of the commission was that this would be the capstone, this would be a great university with four campuses. Then, we would have very good liberal arts colleges available all over the state that would have been the previously all black schools and it would take twenty years to work out of that pattern, but you had to start working. It would have been the East Carolinas and the Appalachians and the like, Cullowee, Western North Carolina. All at the liberal arts college level, feeding into the graduate, maybe having a couple of masters programs in limited fields, but not aspiring to be part of the university system, but being first-rate colleges. So, we supported that and if you look at the appropriations to upgrade those colleges, was tremendous. Then we created a brand new thing, which may be the most significant thing in the long run that my administration did, the creation of the community college-technical institute system. We had a few industrial education systems connected with the public schools, but what we, of course, were trying to do was to get at a kind of education that had never been available before and on a basis of being within commuting distance of everybody in the state. And we achieved that. Now, I left it in damn good shape. Leo Jenkins and Governor Moore loused it up.