The fingerprints of the late Terry Sanford can be found all across North Carolina history in the mid-to-late 1900s – including his time as one of the founders of then-named Methodist College.

Terry Sanford
Photo courtesy of Duke University

In early 1956, the Fayetteville attorney joined the “Fayetteville College Steering Committee” with hopes of bringing a new college to Fayetteville. As a master politician, Sanford prided himself on asking the community to become loyal to his mission of starting the school.

In a telegram to Dr. R. L. Pittman, chairman of the committee, Sanford had this message*:

“…Vision, courage, and sacrifice have been the beginning of every great school. I am proud to tell the church leaders out here they can look to the people of Cumberland County, North Carolina, for vision, determination, sacrifice, and leadership in founding this new great college. I know we will reach our financial goal. I hope that every family in Cumberland County will pledge something and become numbered among the founders of an educational institution which will bring centuries of enrichment to North Carolina.”

Sanford’s vision came to life in more ways than one. Not only did he help attain the land and money to secure a deal with the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church to bring the Methodist College (a name Sanford was first to suggest) to Fayetteville, but it has become a staple in the community ever since.

Methodist College was chartered by the state of North Carolina on Nov. 1, 1956 and Sanford was elected the first chairman of the Methodist College Board of Trustees (a spot he proudly held for 11 years). He was a Trustee until 1993.

Sanford went on to serve as governor of North Carolina (1961-65) and then U.S. Senator (1986-93).

Sanford never forgot his roots in Fayetteville, routinely visiting and speaking at Methodist College and even serving as honorary chair on the “Come of Age” and “Expanding the Vision” fund drives until his death in 1998.

Because of Terry Sanford’s steadfast loyalty – and the valuable and precious “time” he put into building the solid foundations of something the Fayetteville community both desired and needed – Methodist University continues to bring enrichment to the city, region, and state he loved.

*As published in “From Cotton Field to University: A History of Methodist University 1956-2006”