Joseph Carr was looking for a roommate for the second semester of his first year at Geneseo, and by happenstance, Mark Zimmer ’82 needed a room. It was the beginning of a long friendship, one that Carr has valued so much through the years that he has created a $100,000 endowed scholarship named for Mark and his wife, Susan, which will support Geneseo students.
In June, Carr honored his friendship and creation of the endowment with the Zimmers at a surprise presentation during Geneseo’s 2022 Alumni Reunion.
"We were stunned," says Mark Zimmer.
Carr says he wanted to express their shared values and love for the Geneseo community through the gift. His vision is to create an ongoing connection between Geneseo students and the Zimmer family.
"I saw this as a generational solution, not just a check," says Carr. "That’s why I want Mark to oversee it completely." Carr believes the Zimmers’ children will welcome the chance to be part of the next generation to shepherd their values. "Their children are much like their parents. They believe in hard work, giving back, and being part of a community."
Carr, a vintner, is the founder of award-winning Joseph Carr Wines and Josh Cellars. Zimmer is an executive cardiovascular specialty sales professional with Novartis, a global medicines company. Susan is a nurse who recently retired from SUNY Geneseo after 11 years of service. Mark and Susan have raised three children in Geneseo, all of whom went to college and now have careers in the area.
"We hope the scholarships will help students get started down the path to realizing their dreams," says Zimmer, who wants to meet future recipients. "The size of this endowment is significant, and we want to be good stewards of Joe’s gift to the college."
Carr and Zimmer recall what it was like as undergrads. Carr studied theatre and dance and Zimmer was an English major.
"We were from blue-collar families," says Carr, who remembers Zimmer hitchhiking and catching rides back and forth from his home in Caledonia, 14 miles from campus. "Mark’s determination to finish college was very important to him. I never forgot that."
"We were foosball partners—if we had 25 cents between us," says Zimmer, "we knew we could just go out and have fun."
Carr’s uniqueness has helped him succeed, say the Zimmers.
"Joe has always had the soul of an artist and is extremely talented in many ways," Zimmer says. He attributes Joe’s success in the wine business to the wonderful wine he makes — and the marketing of his products. "He’s got that sort of genius with wordplay and making pictures out of words."
Carr believes you define yourself by how you overcome failure. "I’ve had many more failures in my life than I’ve had successes, but I’ve found a way to overcome that."
"There are four words," Carr says, to remember. "The first two words are courage and conviction, and the second two words are energy and love. After you fail, you have to find the courage and conviction to get up, and the only way you heal is by surrounding yourself with energy and love. If you can find those four words in your life, you’ll be happy. "
Joseph Carr attended SUNY Geneseo from 1978 through 1982 as a fine arts major. In 2019, he received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his contributions to the wine industry and his longstanding support of the college. Carr also served as a board member of the Geneseo Foundation (2008–15) and co-chair of the Albany Alumni Regional Committee and established a scholarship in honor of Geneseo’s late English professor John Hoey.