This week’s post for Archives Month focuses on the founding of Central Piedmont Community College. Central Piedmont Community College was formed on July 1, 1963. It was created by the merger of two schools: Mecklenburg College and the Central Industrial Education Center.
Mecklenburg College, formerly known as Carver College, opened in 1949 to serve black veterans returning from World War II. The school was operated by the Charlotte City School Board before becoming part of the Charlotte Community College System in 1958. In 1961, Carver College was renamed Mecklenburg College and the campus was moved to new facilities off Beatties Ford Road.
The Central High Building housed what was known as Charlotte College and was founded in 1946. Central High was the home of Charlotte College until 1959 after the college had moved to its brand new campus off Highway 49, where it would its legacy as four-year institution. Today this institution is known as The University of North Carolina – Charlotte.
In place of Charlotte College, came the Central Industrial Education Center (CIEC), which was established in 1959. The school was part of the larger Industrial Education Center System which addressed the educational needs of adults in North Carolina. The schools provided technical and business training, pre-employment training, hobby and leisure classes, and opportunities to improved occupational skills.
On July 1, 1963 the North Carolina General Assembly passed the North Carolina Community College Act, which effectively created the school that would become known as CPCC. The predominately black Mecklenburg College would merge with the predominately white CIEC in order to create a single integrated institution; the first of its kind in Charlotte and possibly North Carolina. Because of this merger, CPCC was able to build on the faculties and curriculum already in place at each of the schools. For example, Mecklenburg College was recognized for its strong secretarial program and the CIEC had well-regarded automotive mechanics, construction trade, and practical nursing programs.
The administrators of this new school had to work fast to be ready for students in the fall of 1963. State and local officials met to appoint a board of trustees and created a budget for the school in September 1963. The group also chose the school’s first president by unanimous consent: Dr. Richard H. Hagemeyer, who had been serving as the assistant superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System and the director of the CIEC. The creation of the school happened so fast that it wasn’t even until November 18, 1963 that the school’s name was officially chosen! The name “Central Piedmont Community College” essentially served as a place-filler until a formal name could be agreed upon. Other candidates for names included Hornet’s Nest College and South Central College.
Over the last 53 years, Central Piedmont Community College has undoubtedly transformed into a leader in workforce development within and throughout the Charlotte region. From what started as a merger of two institutions, CPCC has developed into one of the largest community colleges in the Carolinas and serves over 70,000 people at its six full-service campuses across Mecklenburg County.
Three presidents have guided CPCC to become an innovative and comprehensive college that advances the life-long educational development of students; and soon, CPCC will welcome its fourth president. For more information on the founding of CPCC, please visit the CPCC Archives or check out the book CPCC: The First Thirty Years by Carol Timblin from your campus library.