James Goodnight, president and CEO of Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute Inc., a major computer software producer, has a personal stake in American education. He and his wife along with SAS co-founder John Sall and his wife have provided financial support for the Cary Academy, a private school for grades 6 through 12 that sits on 52 acres of land donated by SAS. "Every CEO -- every company -- in this country should be concerned with our education system. Not to say that it's bad. But just to say there's a lot of improvement that could made," he states. "If manufacturing is to succeed and prosper here in America, we probably need to have [fewer traditional] workers and more machinery. And that machinery . . . takes some people with some pretty brilliant minds to work on it. [And] those are the types of people we need to be producing out of our schools and colleges," says Goodnight. "So one of my goals in setting up Cary Academy was at least to have a bunch of kids that, when they get out of high school, understand how to use a computer as a basic tool."
A computer, as he sees it, is a means of gaining access to a whole world of information, a way of writing papers and taking tests, and as a means of creating and communicating through Power Point presentations and Web sites. "This is in English and history; it's in dance. We have a very balanced school with regard to the arts and sciences," he stresses. "We really didn't want a school that was strictly for math and science." What's more, adds Goodnight, "Even though we use computers as tools, they are just that. They're a replacement for pencils and books and paper. . . . It's just putting kids in an environment like [the one] they're going to be [in] at work in the future."