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Hagemeyer, CPCC’s first president, dies at age 95

Dick Hagemeyer came to Charlotte from the Midwest a half-century ago and helped turn Central Piedmont Community College into an educational giant.

But that was only one of his lives.

Richard Hagemeyer Sr., who died Wednesday at his Matthews home at age 95, also found time for working with racehorses, teaching shop classes, officiating basketball games, traveling to at least 15 other nations, winning a number of civic and educational awards, earning a reputation as “Mr. Fix It,” and playing marbles and other games with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“What he did at CPCC was amazing,” his son, Dick Jr., said Friday. “But that was only a part of who he was.”

Hagemeyer, reared in northwest Ohio and Michigan, was recruited to Charlotte in 1963 to serve as first president of CPCC -- a school formed from the merger of Mecklenburg College, a mostly black school founded in 1949 for African American veterans of World War II; and Central Industrial Education Center, a mostly white technical school.

By the time he retired as president in 1986, CPCC was among the nation’s biggest community colleges and had earned a reputation as an innovator.

“Having the campuses around the county, the idea of independent study ... those were all dreams of his,” his son said.

The merger of the racially separate schools came at a time when racial integration was causing a social upheaval in the South.

“I was too dumb or naive to understand the explosiveness of the whole thing,” Hagemeyer said in a 1995 book, “Miracle on Elizabeth Avenue,” written by Carol Timblin.

He wanted a school that was open to all -- students seeking a start to four-year college programs; those looking for technical and occupational training; and those who needed remedial work to earn high school diplomas. All that came to pass in his two-plus decades as CPCC president.

“We will have an open-door policy,” he said of his original goal for the school, “but we will have quality education.”

Terry O’Banion, former longtime president of the League of Innovation in the Community College, said Friday that Hagemeyer “was one of the great community college presidents of his era, making CPCC one of the great community colleges.”

When he retired in 1986, he simply started a new life. He already was a Renaissance man in the 1950s, helping his maternal grandfather, Melvin Stump, train harness racehorses in Michigan; playing basketball at Bowling Green University and then refereeing games while working as a teacher.

His first wife, Janet, died in the 1970s. They had two children. Then he married Jinny in 1983 and added three more children to the family. After retirement from CPCC, Dick and Jinny Hagemeyer left for Swaziland, Africa, on a three-month assignment by the U.S. government to work with higher education. The couple later became active with Friendship Force and traveled to Thailand, Russian, Brazil and Indonesia.

Later, they traveled to at least a dozen other countries.

Hagemeyer also found time for gardening, and if something needed repair, he would answer the call from children, grandchildren or friends.

“He was a regular Mr. Fix-It,” said stepdaughter Beth Boyle.

“He could fix anything,” daughter-in-law Linda Hagemeyer added.

Hagemeyer, a regular on the golf course at Carmel Country Club, had a hole-in-one to his credit.

“We had a great life -- a lot of wonderful experiences,” Jinny Hagemeyer said Friday. “He had a great smile, and a way of bringing people together.”

Hagemeyer received an honorary doctorate in 1987 from UNC Charlotte and won the Bowling Green State Distinguished Alumnus Award. The Richard H. Hagemeyer Education Award is presented annually by CPCC to a current or former CPCC student who shows outstanding leadership.

Funeral services for Hagemeyer are scheduled for 1 p.m. next Thursday at Myers Park Baptist Church, 1900 Queens Road.

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