Still in the Business
By Kathleen Poe Ross
While many of his contemporaries have been enjoying retirement for years, Carl Zwerner (B.B.A. '55) has yet to slow down. Today, the 84-year-old is a director and substantial owner of First State Bank of the Florida Keys and an active investor in many small ventures.
"I'm actually staying a little busier than I want to, but I'm still traveling, and I'm trying to stay out of trouble," Zwerner says. "I enjoy what I'm doing, and as long as it doesn't stress me out, I'm OK."
The Atlanta native began his career as a factory manager for National Container Corporation following a stint in the Army Corps of Engineers. At the same time, Zwerner was working toward his degree in production management at Georgia State - then known as the Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia - and raising a young family.
Zwerner moved to Miami not long after he finished college to become a partner in his father's company. After his dad passed away a few years later, Zwerner founded his own business - one that wouldn't compete with his other former partner - to import flat glass for construction. That firm, Glass International, went through a handful of mergers and acquisitions over the years and ultimately became Glass, Inc., which has been helmed by Zwerner's eldest son since 1996.
With years of experience working in partnership with his father and, later, his son, Zwerner in 1987 endowed a chair in the Robinson College of Business, the Carl R. Zwerner Chair in Family-Owned Enterprises, to study the relationships of families in small business and, as he says, figure out how to keep everybody happy. At the time, the gift was the largest from an individual to the university in GSU's history.
In 2002, Zwerner established a prize for business ethics to be awarded to executive M.B.A. students who demonstrate great potential for success based on ethical conduct, integrity and community involvement. "Ethics is just a word to a lot of businesspeople today; it's not a code of conduct," Zwerner says. "The only way to build anything that's lasting is ethically."
That same year, he received the GSU Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Service Award in recognition of his many gifts to the university and his decades of service on the Robinson College of Business Board of Advisors, of which he is still a member.
Having a degree from GSU in his background gave Zwerner the confidence to launch his own business and the tools to succeed when he was just starting out.
"The professors were top-notch, and I really got a great education there because of the high quality of those people," he says. "It gave me a good foundation."
Despite the many ways Georgia State prepared Zwerner for success in the business world, there seems to be a gap in his knowledge when it comes to leaving work behind: "I haven't learned yet," he says with a laugh. "That's the one course I must have missed: when to quit."