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 Three Community College Legends Recognized for Contributions to Higher Education 


April 22, 2017 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                           
Contact: Martha Parham
202/728-0200 x209

Judith Eaton, Rosemary Gillett-Karam and Tony Zeiss receive AACC Leadership Award

New Orleans, La. – Whether leading an accrediting agency, a leadership program or a community college, the end goal is the same: improving the lives of students and their chances for success. Three higher education leaders have worked tirelessly for decades to reach that goal. Judith Eaton, Rosemary Gillett-Karam and Tony Zeiss were honored for their work by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) with the national Leadership Award at the 97th AACC Annual Convention on Saturday, April 22 at the event’s opening session.

Judith Eaton has served as president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) since 1997, but she’s been advocating for quality education for most of her career. Under her leadership, CHEA has emerged as a major voice in discussions of higher education and accreditation. As the only organization focused solely on accreditation, CHEA serves as a comprehensive source of information on accreditation and as an effective representative of member institutions. Now in its 20th year, CHEA has established itself as a useful and valued advocate for accreditation, an organization on which people can rely and trust, both nationally and internationally.

And CHEA’s future looks bright. Eaton hopes the organization can provide strong leadership for change and innovation in accreditation—open to new, creative and dynamic approaches, yet dedicated to preserving accreditation’s core strengths: peer review and the centrality of academics judging quality.

Prior to her work at CHEA, Eaton served as the first permanent chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, where she was responsible for leadership and coordination of 32 institutions serving more than 162,000 students statewide. Previously, Eaton served as president of the Council for Aid to Education. In the 1980s, she was president of the Community College of Philadelphia. Eaton also has been president of Community College of Southern Nevada, and served as vice president of the American Council on Education. She’s held full- and part-time teaching positions at Columbia University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. 

Rosemary Gillett-Karam is a tenured associate professor of higher education and director of the Community College Leadership Doctoral Program (CCLDP) at Morgan State University, an historically black institution in Maryland. It’s a program she helped develop when she was recruited. It’s now a fully online three-year doctoral program that serves students from the U.S. and foreign countries. CCLDP currently boasts an enrollment of more than 200 students, and many graduates are serving as community college leaders. Nearly all new graduates are African American.

Prior to that, Gillett-Karam was, for five years, president of Louisburg College in North Carolina. While there, she introduced the nationally acclaimed Learning Partners Program, focusing on students with learning disabilities. Previously, she served as an associate professor at North Carolina State University in the Higher Education and Community College Program. At the same time, she was co-editor of the juried Community College Review. She also guided the Fellows Program, part of a $13 million Kellogg award to develop new and ethnically diverse leaders for American community colleges. Several of these fellows are now community college presidents.

She’s spent time as a dean and department chair at Austin Community College in Texas, and was a scholar in residence at Hagerstown Community College in Maryland.

A long-time supporter of diversity in education, Gillett-Karam wrote the first text on women and minorities in the community college. Some of her more well-known books include Shared Vision; Diversity and Underrepresentation; Teaching as Leading; Women in the Community College; and Ethics in the Academy. She has written numerous chapters in books and many journal articles. She’s served on various national boards for community colleges, including on the editorial board of the Community College Journal of Research and Practice. She’s currently on the Baltimore City Community College Board of Trustees.

Her promise as a leader was evident early on. After completing her doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin, Gillett-Karam was named Emerging Scholar of the Year by AACC. She also served as a Kellogg Postdoctoral Fellow for the university’s Community College Leadership Program from 1988 to 1991. She was named a Distinguished Graduate by UT–Austin.

Tony Zeiss has spent nearly 50 years advancing education. Whether he was standing in front of a classroom or working as president of an institution, Zeiss continually pushed to ensure students were given the tools they needed to achieve the American Dream.

Zeiss served as president of Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) in North Carolina for 24 years, retiring in 2016. He led the college through a period of unprecedented growth. CPCC grew from having one downtown campus to six campuses spread across the county. The student population nearly doubled. Millions of dollars were raised through capital campaigns to increase student support and expand programming at CPCC.

During his tenure, he expanded training programs so workers would be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. The National Alliance of Business named CPCC the U.S. Community College of the Year in 2002 for its response to the workforce and technology needs of local employers and job seekers through innovative educational and training strategies.

Zeiss also spearheaded the creation of the Global Vision Leaders Group, bringing together some 170 local business leaders to discuss economic development strategies. He created the Regional Global Collaborative for Skill Training which will position Mecklenburg and surrounding counties to participate and prosper in the global economy.

Before coming to CPCC, Zeiss was president of Pueblo Community College in Colorado. Other positions have included dean at Central Texas College, an instructor of telecommunications, and a high school speech and theater teacher. He’s authored or co-authored 20 books, including Build Your Own Ladder: Four Secrets to Career Success and Get ‘Em While They’re Hot: Attracting, Developing, and

Retaining Peak Performers. Zeiss has served on numerous boards, including serving as chair of the AACC Board of Directors from 1999 to 2000.

As the voice of the nation’s community colleges, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), delivers educational and economic opportunity for 13 million diverse students in search of the American Dream. Uniquely dedicated to access and success for all students, AACC’s nearly 1,200 member colleges provide an on-ramp to degree attainment, skilled careers and family-supporting wages. Located in Washington, D.C., AACC advocates for these not-for-profit, public-serving institutions to ensure they have the resources and support they need to deliver on the mission of increasing economic mobility for all. 

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