Skip navigation

A Top 10 look at a year to remember at TCC

A new president, a professor gone viral and a celebration of generous donors and collaborative partnerships are among a year of highlights for Tidewater Community College in 2019.

Check out our TCC Top 10 list of storylines that made a mark.

10. The college’s Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses celebrated their first-generation students, faculty and administrators in events held in early November. The days were selected to coincide with the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Celebrating first-generation college students.

9. Thanks to a partnership between TCC and Chesapeake Public Schools, 52 high school graduates earned career and technical training credentials during May commencement in areas that range from mechatronics to pharmacy technology to welding.

8. TCC received a fifth federal grant to help train military veterans and their spouses for careers in trucking. The grant, administered by the college’s Center for Military and Veterans Education, allows veterans to train for in-demand careers at no cost to them.

7. A partnership among TCC, Hampton Roads Transit and Norfolk Now to prepare Hampton Roads residents for careers as bus operators launched in May and graduated its inaugural class in the fall. A second cohort is under way.

The first cohort of HRT graduates

6. Mayor Rick West joined the Nov. 18 celebration for the opening of the new robotics lab on the Chesapeake Campus. The lab contains six state-of-the-art Fuji Automatic Numerical Control robots and training stations.

5. TCC will continue to grow in the next decade thanks to several generous donors. The TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management received a major gift from philanthropist Jim Hixon. A $500,000 grant from TowneBank will also benefit the TCC Perry Center and help expand the Regional Automotive Center. The Hampton Roads Community Foundation gave the TCC Perry Center a $500,000 grant spread over five years. Stanley Black & Decker earned the Chancellor’s Award for Leadership in Philanthropy for its support of the Skilled Trades Academy. Black & Decker donated $275,000 in new industry tools and equipment, the biggest in-kind investment by the company ever in the commonwealth. The SunTrust Foundation’s $75,000 grant will support the Skilled Trades Academy. Builders & Contractors Exchange funded $5,000 in scholarships for the academy. The Don Carey REECH Foundation also gifted TCC’s Women’s Center STEM Promise Program with $2,500.

Jim Hixon provided a generous gift for the TCC Perry Center.

4. It’s never been easier to transfer from TCC to Old Dominion University or Virginia Wesleyan University. The Guaranteed Transfer Partnership Agreement, signed in September, ensures a seamless transfer to ODU for TCC graduates. The Fair Transfer Guarantee Agreement between VWU and TCC allows graduates who earn arts or science associate degrees to enter VWU as juniors.

3. TCC put into action plans to eliminate food insecurity among its students. The college and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore are new partners in a five-year initiative to eliminate the food insecurity that impedes many TCC students from completing their higher education. TowneBank’s $250,000 donation will go toward the food. A Campus-Based Pantry and Food Scholarship Program are in the works and a mobile pantry on the Norfolk and Portsmouth campuses started in the fall. In addition, a partnership between the Virginia Beach Campus and the city’s Department of Human Services gives TCC counselors and advisers a streamlined way to refer Virginia Beach students to the resources they need. Students can receive food, mental health counseling and housing support.

Physics Professor David Wright went viral.

2. Student Erica Church’s tweet on the animated teaching style of Professor David Wright made a big bang. The viral post, viewed by more than 30 million people, created headlines around the world and led to the beloved physics professor granting interviews to Yahoo, the BBC, NPR and Good Morning America. He and students Church and Kierra Brothers will appear on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on Jan. 26.

1. Welcome, President Conston! The college’s sixth permanent president, hired Oct. 15, assumed the role on Jan. 6, 2020.

TCC Perry Center honored with design award by commercial real estate group

Tidewater Community College’s culinary and visual arts center, planned for Norfolk’s NEON District, was recognized with an Excellence in Developmental Design Award by the Hampton Roads Association for Commercial Real Estate (HRACRE).

TCC’s Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, which is scheduled to open in fall 2021, was honored with a Merit Award for Best Conceptual Project by the group.

Designed by Sanders and Crouse Architects, the center is to be built on land donated by the City of Norfolk on the site of the former Greyhound bus station.

“This project is made possible thanks to our partnership with the City of Norfolk and many community members and groups who are supporting our vision for a regional center to provide both educational and training opportunities for students and community members in Norfolk,” said Matt Baumgarten, executive director of TCC’s Real Estate Foundation.

The HRACRE Excellence in Development Design Awards program seeks to identify and encourage those who have invested and continue to invest the extra effort to bring quality design and development to the Hampton Roads real estate community. A panel of industry experts evaluated 39 submissions and presented the awards at the organization’s annual event earlier this month.

The Perry Center promises to energize the downtown area with expanded offerings in the college’s comprehensive culinary and visual arts programs by:

  • expanding TCC’s one-of-a-kind visual arts education program;
  • training the next generation of chefs with an expansion of TCC’s comprehensive Culinary Arts program;
  • creating opportunities for collaboration between culinary and visual arts programs;
  • making a test kitchen available to food entrepreneurs;
  • housing an expanded program in hospitality and restaurant management; and
  • providing dual-enrollment opportunities for Norfolk high school students and workforce education to residents.

The center will be funded by some TCC general funds but mostly by private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce.

For more information about donating to the campaign, contact the college’s Educational Foundation at 757-822-1080 or visit

TCC receives another major gift to support culinary and visual arts center planned for Norfolk’s NEON District

Tidewater Community College’s new culinary and visual arts center planned for Norfolk’s NEON District received a major gift on Thursday from philanthropist Jim Hixon of Virginia Beach.

The TCC Perry Center for Visual & Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management, scheduled to open in fall 2021 at the site of the former Greyhound bus station, promises to energize the downtown area with expanded offerings in the college’s comprehensive culinary and visual arts programs.

Hixon, who worked for 31 years for Norfolk Southern Corporation and retired as executive vice president for law and corporate relations, is a partner in RZ Restaurants, which operates several Norfolk restaurants, including 219 American Bistro, Norfolk Seafood Co & Big Easy Oyster Bar, 456 Fish, Leone’s Italian and Byrd & Baldwin Bros. Steakhouse.

The first floor of the 43,000 square-foot TCC Perry Center will house the Jim A. Hixon Atrium. Three academic kitchens used for the college’s restaurant management program will be named the RZ Restaurants Kitchens.

“For nearly 30 years, Jim Hixon has stood as the model of what a business, volunteer and philanthropic leader should strive to be in our Hampton Roads community,” said TCC President Gregory DeCinque. “As TCC embarks on one of the region’s largest economic development projects, we are honored to have Jim help lead the way.”

TCC and Hixon declined to disclose the amount of the gift.

While Hixon has no official ties to TCC, he said he is inspired by its commitment to establishing a footprint in the NEON District. Passionate about the arts, he envisions a hub at the corner of Brambleton and Monticello avenues where the new TCC building will be located.

The City of Norfolk donated the land to the TCC Real Estate Foundation last year.

“It’s a great project,” Hixon said. “It will continue to transform downtown Norfolk. Probably the most exciting part is what it’s going to do to the NEON District. It will bring all these students downtown to experience the arts and culture in the area.”

Hixon, an alumnus of William & Mary’s Marshall–Wythe School of Law, has been a benefactor to both his alma mater and Old Dominion University. The James A. and Robin L. Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership at William & Mary was dedicated in 2017. The Hixon Family Scholarship Endowment provides scholarships to William & Mary undergraduates from African countries.

Old Dominion’s arts village includes the James A. Hixon Studio Art Studio Building.

The two-story TCC Perry Center will also house a student-run outdoor cafe open. Dual enrollment expansion is in the works with Norfolk Public Schools, and Hixon is particularly excited about the college’s first restaurant management program in Norfolk. Currently, the college offers hospitality management only on its Virginia Beach Campus.

“It will expand the talent pool of professionals in that industry,” Hixon said. “And if we have students in kitchens learning how to be chefs and they keep seeing RZ Restaurants, maybe they’ll think about applying to one of our restaurants when they graduate.”

The Houston “Hu” Odom Jr. School of Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at the TCC Perry Center is named for Hu Odom, president and founder of BOTH, Inc., a franchisee of Golden Corral Restaurants.

Odom’s seven-figure gift, made last December, is one of several the TCC Educational Foundation has received in support of the project, funded by some college general funds but mostly by private donations raised through Go Further! TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce.

Norfolk’s Patricia and Douglas Perry are the lead donors in the initiative.

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation recently awarded the college  $500,000 over the next five years to help build the TCC Perry Center. TowneBank gifted TCC with a $500,000 grant toward that effort and expansion of the college’s Regional Automotive Center.

For more information about donating to TCC’s Campaign for a Competitive Workforce, contact Steven Jones, executive director of the TCC Educational Foundation, at or call 757-822-1572.