Terry Sanford was one of North Carolina’s most prominent figures, dedicating his life to ethical leadership and public life.

Terry Sanford, white hair, smiling. Duke arch behind him
"Terry Sanford is one of the most important people in North Carolina's history. He addressed challenging problems at a pivotal moment in our state's history. He was willing to lead in ways that most politicians simply aren't willing to lead, in a way that makes him somebody that you should know."  - John Drescher, author
black and white image of two men

North Carolina Governor

As governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965, Sanford focused on strengthening education, combating poverty and expanding civil rights. During his tenure state expenditures for public schools nearly doubled. He supported desegregation at a time when other Southern politicians were continuing to fight it.

Sanford was later recognized as one of the 10 best governors of the 20th century.

Black and white photo of Terry Sanford, graduation time

President of Duke University

In 1970, Sanford began his 15-year tenure as president of Duke University where he was widely credited with transforming the respected Southern campus into a world-class research institution.

While at Duke, he handled student sit-ins with openness and candor, inviting protesters into the president’s suite to discuss their grievances. He also founded the Institute for Policy Sciences and Public Affairs – later the Sanford School of Public Policy. The interdisciplinary program geared toward training future public leaders was among the first in the nation.

Terry Sanford, black and white image, man in suit and tie


Sanford went on to serve one term as a U.S. Senator from 1987 to 1993. Following his Senate career, Sanford returned to Duke to teach and remained active in the public sphere.


Sanford's Legacy

A series of short biographical films, “Terry Sanford: Legacy of Service” was commissioned by the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, with a generous gift from Jennifer Hillman. Vignettes include:

Watch the series