It was an ideal way to take in the final days of 2013 — a Canadian ski trip getaway; sliding down the slopes of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; surrounded by family in a cozy resort.
Somehow, for Joseph Dzenawager ’93, it got even better.
That’s because Dzenawager, of Commack, N.Y., received word during the trip that he was the grand-prize winner of SUNY Cortland’s Super Bowl Raffle. College President Erik J. Bitterbaum picked his name at random from a raffle drum Dec. 30, making Dzenawager the owner of two tickets to the big game at MetLife Stadium Feb. 2, a three-night hotel stay, and $1,000 for other trip expenses.
All told, the unique package the College dangles thanks to its training camp ties with the NFL’s New York Jets pulled in more than $20,000 for student scholarships. Dzenawager, who purchased a single ticket for $100, was participating in the fifth-year raffle for the first time.
“I had just come back in from skiing a couple trails and sat down in front of the PC,” said Dzenawager, recalling his initial reaction. “That’s when I saw the email from someone at Cortland telling me to check my voicemail.”
Dzenawager turned off his cell phone service for the week knowing he’d be out of the country, so he missed the initial phone call from Bitterbaum to deliver the good news. Luckily, however, his voicemail messages are forwarded to his email.
“The very first thing I was thinking was that someone was pulling a prank on me,” Dzenawager said. “I wasn’t 100 percent certain it was legitimate, so I did a little bit of research before I got too excited.”
It took only a few minutes to verify he was, in fact, the winner. He immediately told his wife and three children — ages 17, 14 and 11 — along with his cousin’s family, with whom they were traveling.
“They also thought I was joking at first,” he said. “Once they realized I was serious, we all started dancing and having a good time.”
Soon, text messages and emails started streaming in from college friends who saw the news on the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association Facebook page.
“Everybody was offering to drive me to the game,” joked Dzenawager, who works as an account director for Fortune 500 software company CA Technologies and lives roughly an hour and 15 minutes from MetLife Stadium, without traffic. “But I think my son’s had the car warmed up since I told him I won.”
Each year, he and his 14-year-old son, both passionate New York Jets fans, take a road trip to one of the team’s away games. But their schedule didn’t allow it this year.
Coincidentally, a busy fall for Dzenawager included college visits with his 17-year-old daughter and his first trip back to SUNY Cortland in 20 years. And as fate would have it, plans now include attending pro football’s biggest game in person.
“(Winning the raffle) made the end to 2013 off the charts,” Dzenawager said. “When else am I going to be able to go to the Super Bowl with my son for $100?”
With less than a month to go until the big game kicks off, he’s content soaking in all of the excitement.
“I’m trying to follow it up too,” he said. “I also played the lotto today.”