NCSSM was founded on the vision of former North Carolina Governor James B. Hunt Jr., former Governor, Senator and Duke University President Terry Sanford, and academician and author John Ehle. Under Governor Hunt's first administration the School opened in 1980 on the vacated Watts Hospital campus as the first school of its kind—a public, residential high school where students study a specialized curriculum emphasizing science and mathematics—and with the mission statement shown on the right.
This approach was built on the premise that regions which invest in the creation of human and intellectual capital will receive global economic returns, the key to success in a worldwide economy.
NCSSM has since become the model for 18 like-schools around the globe and has helped found the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST), which now counts more than 100 member institutions across the country. The early vision of our state's leaders has matured into a vital institution that models and advocates excellence in elementary and secondary education and is integral to the pursuit of the strategic economic and quality-of-life objectives so important to North Carolinians and to our nation and world.