On January 26, the Wisconsin Real Estate Club kicked off the spring semester with its first meeting of 2017. With record attendance at the Pyle Center, students came to hear from an industry veteran and this year’s recipient of the Innovator Award, Richard Saltzman, CEO and President of Colony Northstar. After a series of introductory remarks from the club co-presidents, Ben Stevens and Emmet Gaffney, the podium was turned over to the Irgens Executive Director Mike Brennan to introduce our esteemed guest.
The Innovator Award Series recognizes pioneers within the real estate industry who advance the industry through its continuous improvement in ideas and in practice. As Mike Brennan stated, the award reminds us that aspirations can become reality, and inspires the audience to carry on the great tradition established by the educators and practitioners who have come before us. For these reasons, Richard Saltzman proves a deserving recipient of the award.
Saltzman began his career over three decades ago in finance. Working as an investment banker specializing in real estate with Merrill Lynch, he was among the first to securitize real estate, and more specifically, push for the formation of REITs as investment vehicles. As he described his vast real estate experience, students in the audience were reminded of the remarkable speed with which real estate has grown to become a major investment alternative, and how it is because of innovators like Richard Saltzman that the field is what it is today. Students were intrigued as Saltzman shared stories about his landmark deals and about working closely with real estate magnate Sam Zell to launch Equity Office, and the IPO of Kimco shopping centers, which they have studied in the classroom. His extensive work in real estate banking and his entrepreneurial vision for Colony Northstar paints Saltzman as a forward-thinking innovator of industry, and clearly a worthy recipient of this year’s award.
To keep Wisconsin’s innovative tradition going strong, Mike Brennan also announced a recent $250,000 gift to the Innovator Award Series from alumni James Cope and Patrick Dempsey and Walker & Dunlop. The gift includes a new MBA scholarship. This generous gift gives the Graaskamp Center a strategic advantage by ensuring funds are available to support innovative students and industry leaders. Sitting in the audience, we all look forward to the day we can come back and share our knowledge and experience with students as we become industry leaders in our own right.