Alumnus John Zoccoli loves Brock.
This fall, the University will show the feeling is mutual when it presents Zoccoli with the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award on Sept. 21 at Homecoming in front of a crowd of alumni, family and friends.
The award, the most prestigious presented by the Alumni Association, is presented annually to a graduate for their professional achievements, community service and prominence, and is seen as an inspiration to Brock students.
“(I’m) so thankful. I’m humbled, I’m honoured,” said Zoccoli, who graduated in 1986 with his honours bachelor of administration degree. “I’m trying to find the right words. To have a longstanding relationship with the University, and now this, is so humbling. There are times I wonder if I deserve it.”
A rundown of Zoccoli’s involvement with Brock since graduating - particularly since 2002 when he joined the family business of operating nine Niagara Tim Hortons outlets - reads like a love letter to the University.
He has been a guest speaker in classes at the Goodman School of Business, given a convocation address to Faculty of Business graduates and served as honorary president for the Business Students’ Association, which hosts academic competitions and conferences.
Zoccoli also co-chaired his co-op accounting class’s 25th anniversary reunion committee and helped establish an endowment fund for future students. He sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council, has been inducted as chapter honouree of Brock’s Beta Gamma Sigma International Honours Society and regularly supports many of the charity golf tournaments the University hosts.
In 2008, he was awarded the Brock University Faculty of Business Distinguished Graduate award.
He has also been involved with several community organizations, including the Niagara Foundation for Family and Children’s Services, the United Way, Niagara District Chartered Accountants Association and St. Catharines Jaycees.
“Whenever the University needs support, John is the first one to offer his help,” said Don Cyr, Goodman School of Business Dean. “He has financially supported numerous Brock initiatives… but his support doesn’t end with monetary gifts, which over the years has been substantial. John has been a valuable member of the Dean’s Advisory Council (and he’s) always the first to sign up for a committee or offer support where needed.”
Ask Zoccoli, though, and he’s the one who feels indebted to Brock.
As a student in one of the first classes of Brock’s accounting co-op program, Zoccoli, who grew up in Niagara, recalled the program quickly garnered a reputation that other institutes work decades to achieve. He knew shortly after he started attending the University that he made the right decision.
“I have nothing but wonderful things to say about it and how well it prepared me for my Chartered Accountant exams,” he said. (Zoccoli went on to score the highest mark in Niagara on the exam that earned him his Chartered Accountant designation).
Even nearly 30 years after graduating, there aren’t two weeks that go by that he isn’t involved with something happening on the Brock campus, be it with the Goodman School or attending a performance or sporting event with his family. His wife Michelle calls him Mr. Brock.
It’s a moniker he’ll happily continue to have as eldest son Adam is about to start his second year at Brock in health sciences, and his other son, Andrew, plans to study marketing at Brock (”sadly, not accounting,” Zoccoli noted). Daughter Janyn, in Grade 10, is showing signs of following in her father’s number-crunching footsteps.
“I’m just normal old John who, 10 years from now, is still going to be singing the praises of Brock University. I really can’t believe it. It makes me feel warm inside that Brock thinks so highly of me.”