Mecklenburg County commissioners Tuesday night honored Tony Zeiss, the outgoing president of Central Piedmont Community College, with the Order of the Hornet, the board’s highest recognition.
Zeiss built CPCC from one campus to six, which now teach about 70,000 students. The school has been recognized nationally as a leader in workforce development. He announced his retirement in February, after serving the school since 1992, but will continue to work until a replacement is found.
Zeiss is known for his ability to draw collaboration from disparate sides in an even-handed way.
“I think you’ve been better at building cooperation across the board than anybody I know,” said commissioner Dumont Clarke.
Zeiss is known for his love of history, often appearing in period costume, and wrote 20 books on history, education and self-help.
Commissioners also recognized Zeiss for his advocacy in reviving Little Sugar Creek, the long-blighted urban stream that runs past CPCC. A segment of the popular greenway that runs along it, from East Seventh Street to East Fourth Street, will be called Dr. Tony Zeiss Way.
Commissioner Jim Puckett recalled a trip to Colorado in which Zeiss pressed his case for transforming “literally a drainage ditch” between CPCC and uptown.
“That showed me what a visionary you are ... to take one of the ugliest parts of Charlotte and making it one of the most attractive,” Puckett said.
In brief remarks, Zeiss said “the reason this community is so wonderful is that people like you care it about so much. The Lord just put me in the right spot.”