“Good works start with a dream,” say Archon Steve Zeis and his beloved wife Frosene, and now they have begun to realize a longtime dream that will benefit thousands of people in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina. A $15 million National Science Foundation Grant to the Wilson College of Textiles will be administered by Zeis Textiles Extension (ZTE) personnel. ZTE was established in the College of Textiles and will now begin efforts to create good paying textile manufacturing jobs in North Carolina, northeast Virginia, east Tennessee and northern South Carolina.
Archon Zeis explains that those regions “are basically the major textile manufacturing areas in the United States,” and that the ZTE’s undertaking goes “way beyond the scope of the original vision.” That vision originated back in 1957, when Archon Steve, newly arrived in the U.S. from Constantinople, began studies at NC State’s then-School of Textiles, now Wilson College of Textiles. “I grew up in my father’s fabric store in Istanbul,” he explains. “Studying textiles to learn how these colorful fabrics are produced became my life’s dream.”
After graduating, Archon Zeis worked in many positions in the textile industry, and led a team at Northrop Carolina to develop and manufacture critical textile machinery. In 1983, Archon Steve and Frosene took a leap of faith and became owners of their own textile machinery selling agency, named ZTM Sales and Service, Inc. They would go on to represent some of the largest textile machinery manufacturers in Europe. While Steve represented the diverse mix of European machinery companies, Frosene handled their organization’s business and finance sector.
In 2006, the couple made a $1.5 million gift to Wilson College of Textiles to benefit textile students and to create a continuing education center that now bears their name, the Steve and Frosene Zeis Textiles Extension for Economic Development (ZTE). Since its inception, ZTE faculty and staff have taught more than 600 courses to over 12,000 students. In turn, this has led to a total economic impact of nearly $300 million for ZTE clients and partners.
The couple’s remarkable gift in 2006 also established two life-changing Centennial Scholarships. In addition to significant tuition assistance, these scholarships provide enrichment funding that students use to study abroad, attend leadership training and participate in career exploration programs. In 2021, they endowed the Steve and Frosene Zeis Distinguished Professorship in Technical Textiles. NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said to the couple: “From the first gift to the Alumni Association 55 years ago to your ongoing investments in the Wilson College of Textiles, you have made an extraordinary difference at NC State, and we are grateful for your support.”
Their selfless charity has extended into other areas as well. In 2005, the Steve and Frosene Zeis Children’s Cancer Center was dedicated at Mission Hospital’s SECU Cancer Center in Asheville. The duo’s support has also touched the lives of students at UNC Asheville, where Steve attended classes his first year of college before transferring to NC State. Their three-million-dollar gift to UNC Asheville continues to this day to be the largest private gift to that university.
The energetic and generous couple is also involved in the arts. In 2009, the Steve and Frosene Classical Court was dedicated at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Two years prior, Frosene was appointed to the North Carolina Museum of Art’s board of trustees. The Asheville Art Museum, meanwhile, is one of the most recent focuses of the couple’s philanthropic efforts, with two spaces being named after them: the Steve and Frosene Zeis Explore Asheville Exhibition Hall and the Steve and Frosene Zeis Museum Shop.
Above all, Archon Steve and Frosene have been faithful supporters of our Holy Orthodox Faith in America. The Zeises substantially funded the second-phase renovation of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Asheville, NC, and founded the Tony and Helen Morris Hellenic Cultural Center, also in Asheville, in honor of Frosene’s parents. They have contributed significantly toward the building of the Panagia Vimatarisa of Diakonia Retreat and Camp Center in Salem, South Carolina. And, they contributed to the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at Ground Zero and established an endowment. Archon Steve and Frosene are FOUNDERS of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation and are indefatigably committed to the protection of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. They also established scholarships in perpetuity at Hellenic College and the School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. Their support of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America continues to evolve.
Now Archon Steve and Frosene will work with the Wilson College of Textiles, the Zeis Textiles Extension and the Asheville-Buncombe Christian Church Ministries to establish a cottage manufacturing complex in rural Western North Carolina. This partnership will help teach residents textile machinery skills and, in turn, they can produce their own marketable textile products. After successfully completing their courses, these adept artisans can establish locally owned and operated small businesses. A space, called Transformation Village, has already been created by the Asheville-Buncombe Christian Church Ministries, and it currently supports over 200 abused mothers and children and individuals experiencing homelessness.
David Hinks, Dean of the Wilson College of Textiles, stated: “Steve is an example of a truly outstanding Wilson College alumnus who has established himself in the textiles field in the most prominent way. His dedication to this industry can be seen in the multitude of ways he has served as a leader, an innovator and a true pioneer.”
Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, remarked: “Archon Steve and his indispensable life partner Frosene Zeis manifest the true phronema of the Archon: selfless service, concern for the most marginalized and downtrodden, and a determination to serve God and His Holy Church by shining forth His light into the world. On behalf of all of the Archons, our heartiest congratulations to Steve and Frosene on this exciting and groundbreaking new venture. And once again we express our profound gratitude for your commitment to the FOUNDERS of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation x3 ($300,000).”
Steve Zeis was invested as an Archon on October 18, 2018 and conferred with the offikion Skevophylax.