The Kiwanis Club of Chattanooga has announced that the recipient of this year’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding community leadership is Chuck Zeiser.
The award has been presented annually for 90 years and is given in recognition of an individual’s outstanding leadership and service to the community. The award will be presented to Mr. Zeiser at a recognition luncheon to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 29.
Mr. Zeiser grew up in Chattanooga and attended Baylor School where he was co-captain of the wrestling team and a Regimental Commander. He then majored in Industrial Engineering at UT Knoxville where he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity. Following college, he joined the family’s business, Southern Champion Tray.
This year’s recipient served as president and CEO of Southern Champion Tray for many years and now is chairman of that board. He is largely responsible for the success the company enjoys today as he grew it from a regional player in its field to a firm that distributes nationally (and now internationally under his sons’ leadership) with operating facilities in Chattanooga and Mansfield, Tx. His sons comment that "he has run the family business as a stewardship rather than an investment to be maximized for personal gain.”
Mr. Zeiser is an elder and will be serving again as a trustee at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church. He served as chairman of the Building Committee for the three-story Cornerstone Building which was completed in 2001. To quote one of his sons: “He cares deeply for this country and spends a lot of time trying to influence others to do what they can to prevent the loss [of our founding fathers’ intent] of freedom and to keep the doors open for the gospel in the public square. . . . [His] priorities have always been clear—God, family, and country.”
On the civic level, Mr. Zeiser has served as past chairman of the Chattanooga Christian Community Foundation (recently renamed the Generosity Trust), a founding board member of First Things First, and on the boards of Bible in the Public Schools and the Chattanooga Resource Foundation. He currently serves on the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and as chairman of the board of Leadership Ministries Worldwide. He also has been active with the Gideons International for 45 years, where he has held many offices on both local and state levels. With keen interest and focus on the country’s religious freedoms, Mr. Zeiser has been a key contributor in planning the Chattanooga Leadership Prayer Breakfasts through the earlier years.
Although such organizations are dear to Mr. Zeiser’s heart, he has contributed to many other areas of our community. He has served on the boards of Contact of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Association of Business, and the Salvation Army. He has been an important force for Montreat College in Montreat, North Carolina, having served on the board for twenty-three years, including several years as chairman. In May 2012 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at that college’s graduation. He served on the President’s Advisory Council for Covenant College during Dr. Niel Nielson’s presidency.
It would also be noteworthy to list Mr. Zeiser’s serving as president of the Downtown Chattanooga Kiwanis club. It was during his presidency that the club experienced one of its most successful membership growth initiatives.
Mr. Zeiser has been married to the former Joanne Plunkett for over 54 years and has two grown sons, John and Bruce, and six grandchildren.