Richard Hagemeyer Sr. came to the Carolinas from the Midwest in the early 1960s to merge two schools into Charlotte's first community college.
Hagemeyer served as president of that school, Central Piedmont Community College, for 23 years and watched it grow into one of the nation's largest two-year schools.
Hagemeyer, lauded as one of the key figures in the integration of education in the Carolinas, died Wednesday at the age of 95.
He had been an administrator at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., and came South to become the first president of CPCC when it was founded in 1963.
CPCC was a merger of Mecklenburg College, a mostly black school that was founded in 1949 as Carver College, for African American veterans of World War II; and Central Industrial Education Center, a mostly white technical school. The merger came at a time when racial integration was causing a social upheaval in the South -- and it occurred a few years before Mecklenburg County's public schools were integrated.
"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.
There were difficult days for the school in the mid 1960s, but by the time Hagemeyer retired in 1986, succeeded by Ruth Shaw, CPCC was a model of community colleges across the nation.
With about 20,000 students, according to recently published statistics, and campuses across Mecklenburg County, CPCC is among the 25 largest community colleges in the country.
Hagemeyer said in Timblin's book that he wanted a school that was inclusive to future four-year college students, plus those seeking technical training and people in need of literacy classes.
"We will have an open-door policy," he said of his original goal for the school, "but we will have quality education."
Hagemeyer was an active member at Myers Park Baptist Church and with the Rotary Club of Charlotte. He was president of the Rotary in 1991-92, joining a list of people that serves as a who's who of area leaders.
Hagemeyer received an honorary doctorate in 1987 from UNC Charlotte.
He also was honored in a number of ways by CPCC, including the Richard H. Hagemeyer Education Award, presented annually 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.
Written by Observer reporter Steve Lyttle
Published in Charlotte Observer on Dec. 28, 2012