At first, Don McCabe had reservations about Kandi Dietmeyer.
He was a trustee of the College of The Albemarle, a community college serving northeastern North Carolina. She was a young administrator applying for the job of president.
Six years later, those reservations are long gone.
“She’s been a godsend,” says McCabe. “She’s been incredible.”
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Next month, Deitemeyer takes over as president of Charlotte’s Central Piedmont Community College. She replaces Tony Zeiss, who over a quarter-century saw the school grow from one to six campuses and become a national leader in workforce development.
“It’s a monumental task but I’m up for it,” says Deitemeyer, who turns 48 in January.
The woman, known to her staff as “Dr. D,” is a Florida native. After graduating from a community college herself, she went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of South Florida.
Her career took her to community college posts in Kentucky and North Carolina. It was from Davidson County Community College that she went to College of The Albemarle in 2010.
Deitemeyer is by all accounts a hard worker who has made a mark at the school that serves seven counties along the Outer Banks.
In August, Schools.com named COA North Carolina’s top community college. Among other things, it cited the school’s partnership with Currituck County in opening a new Aviation and Technical Training Center.
“She’s an extremely hard worker,” said trustee Joe Peel, the mayor of Elizabeth City and former longtime Charlotte educator. “She demands excellence of herself and the people who work for her. She wants to be the best.… She was obviously a take-charge kind of person, a visionary who would push the envelop. And that’s what we needed.”
When Deitemeyer took over as president in Elizabeth City, she set about meeting and listening to employees. She met with every full-time employee and reached out to leaders in the school’s seven-county service area. “I am very much about relationships,” she says.
Not long after arriving in Elizabeth City, Deitemeyer found herself with another challenge.
Ten months into her presidency, she and her husband Gary got bad news: their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Zoe, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. Deitemeyer says at first it was hard to leave for work.
“It was hard to click the door and leave (Gary) there with a child … recently diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “I focused on pouring myself into making sure students … had a vibrant future and then went home and was a mom.”
Her new friends in town and at the college rallied around. They brought over meals. The family found strength in their faith and their church.
“We’re a family of great faith,” Deitemeyer says. “We would never have made this through without God’s hand on it.”
Zoe underwent chemotherapy at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk. She finished her final treatment three years ago, is in remission and “in exceedingly good health,” Deitemeyer says.
Gary Deitemeyer, whose background is in accounting, is now chief financial officer for the Roc Solid Foundation, a non-profit that offers support for families of children with cancer.
Kandi Deitemeyer has shared the family’s own experience in public appearances. “It has allowed us to meet people and become a much more philanthropic family,” she says. “The depth of your compassion grows.”
Deitemeyer says she’ll do at Central Piedmont what she did at College of The Albemarle: Meet people and listen.
“I’m going to come in and stay focused on students and their success,” she says.
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Family: Husband, Gary; daughter Zoe
Background: Deitemeyer has been president of College of The Albemarle in Elizabeth City, with about 8,000 to 9,000 students a year, since 2010. She's held other community college posts in Florida and Kentucky.