Radio Waves, Philanthropic Ways

Vivian Carr was a trailblazer whose legacy is now paving paths for a new generation of students.

As science says, radio waves can travel light years into outer space. In their own way, planned gifts can also have a far reach. The late Vivian Carr Hon. M.E. ’81 understood both of those principles. After breaking ground for women in radio, she left a large bequest for Stevens, ensuring her legacy will endure into the future.

Born in 1925, Carr earned an engineering certificate from Stevens during World War II, when more women began filling industrial jobs. Though many of those women stayed home in peacetime, Carr launched a four-decade career and rose to leadership positions at Bell Labs and AT&T.

Carr was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a director of the Engineers Club of New York. She was also the first female member and officer of the Radio Club of America (RCA), founded in 1909. Having joined in 1973, Carr served as president from 2011-12, and as president-emeritus thereafter. In 2014, the RCA named the Vivian A. Carr Award after her, established to recognize outstanding achievements by women in the telecom industry.

Mary Ann Weitnauer, a professor at Georgia Tech who received the Carr Award in 2017, reflected on its significance. “When I was a graduate student and a junior professor in the communications and networking area, Bell Labs was considered the most prestigious place to be,” Weitnauer said. “Strong women in that area were and still are relatively rare. That Vivian Carr rose to senior executive at Bell Labs and to president of the Radio Club of America is extremely impressive. I was honored to receive the award in her name.”

Carr earned a degree in engineering economics from Iowa State in 1973, and Stevens recognized her in 1981 with an honorary master’s degree. She showed her appreciation for Stevens by supporting scholarships, especially for students involved with WCPR, the campus radio station.

“Vivian was friendly and welcoming,” said Mike Bocchinfuso ’08, who met Carr when he received a scholarship in her name. “WCPR is a staple of Stevens, and it was great that our club could connect with a radio trailblazer like Vivian.”

With her husband John, Carr retired to the Jersey Shore and enjoyed animals, gardening and bridge until she passed at age 92 in 2018. Her last gift to Stevens, through her estate, will now enable a new generation of students to make their own far-reaching waves.

“Vivian was a gifted woman with a multitude of accomplishments,” said her friend Pat Schneider. “She had a pioneering spirit and successfully broke glass ceilings. She would be happy to see that her generosity will support students pursuing higher education in technological fields.”