The Governors' School concept and practice began in North Carolina in 1963 when Governor Terry Sanford established the first one at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. The idea came from a member of Governor Sanford's staff, novelist John Ehle. This first school was initially funded through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. Later it came under the auspices of the North Carolina Board of Education.


After the first school was established, several states, including Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Kentucky, quickly established similar schools. It should be pointed out that some of the NCoGS affiliated schools do not bear the words "Governor's School" in their titles, although many do. The mission and purpose of schools from individual states vary from one state to another and indeed from one school to another. The National Conference of Governor's Schools enjoys a very diverse group in its affiliated schools.

There are both collective and common features in all states and schools.

  • Each school is a summer program for gifted and talented youths of high school ages.
  • Each school has highly selective criteria for student selection.
  • Most member schools are supported entirely or in large part by their state legislatures and educational funding.
  • Schools vary in the length of their sessions from one week to six weeks.
  • All schools welcome inquiries regarding program and curricula.