Gala Caps Center's 25th Anniversary Celebration
By Kathryn M. O'Neill
Posted October 24, 2010
MIT's Center for Real Estate (MIT/CRE) marked the culmination of its 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, October 2, 2010, with a black-tie gala at Boston's InterContinental Hotel. More than 280 alumni, students, faculty, administrators, friends, and founders gathered for an evening of dining, dancing, and reminiscing.
"It's been a great 25 years," said MIT/CRE Chair Tony Ciochetti, noting that more than 840 graduates of the Center are now working in 20-plus countries around the world. In its quarter century of existence, MIT/CRE has grown from one person with one desk to a force in the real estate industry.
"The Center has been a real example of academic rigor and practice in the area of real estate," said MIT Chancellor Phillip L. Clay, who offered welcoming remarks. "Today we gather to celebrate the triumph of the original vision."
Indeed, the original visionary, Charles "Hank" Spaulding, was among those honored at the gala. "Imagine being him and looking at a ballroom of people who went to the Center, and it was all your idea," said Jane Seiden, Class of 1988, who co-chaired the event. "When I graduated, people didn't know the Center for Real Estate. I had to explain it. Today when I tell someone I'm a graduate of the Center, it means a lot."
Founded in 1985 as the Center for Real Estate Development, MIT/CRE was the brainchild of Spaulding, who collaborated with John de Monchaux, then dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, and MIT Professor Lawrence "Larry" Bacow (now president of Tufts University) to establish a first-rate graduate education and research program in real estate.
"What's really inspiring is to bring together a long line of supporters and founding members," Adèle Naudé Santos commented during the packed reception that preceded the program. "The turnout shows support for the venture."
Santos, who also offered formal remarks as dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, MIT/CRE's administrative home, underlined the Center's position at the vanguard of modern thinking about how buildings are made and how they are grouped together. "Real estate is the building block of city making," she said. "MIT intrinsically is the place for us to come up with the future of cities."
The gala concluded three days of anniversary festivities, which included a dinner for MIT/CRE's industry partners held on September 30 at the MIT Museum; a full-day conference on October 1 at the Media Lab; and a "back-to-school" series of talks targeting alumni, and a graduation luncheon for the 2010 class, both held on October 2 earlier in the day.
A highlight of the gala was the presentation of three Visioneer Awards. MIT/CRE's highest honor, the Visioneers are given out every five years to honor visionaries, pioneers, and engineers who have demonstrated "the combination of extraordinary perceptiveness and sustained achievement over a period of many years."
This year's first award went to Jonathan F.P. Rose, president of the Jonathan Rose Companies, a green real estate policy, planning, development, owner's representative, and investment firm. Rose was honored for "pioneering an integrated approach to sustainable development, and for fostering healthy communities with practical and profitable green solutions."
"This is really an amazing moment for me," Rose said. "I'm always asked by young people what's the best school to go to, and I always, always, always say this school."
Rose noted that there will soon be nine billion people on the planet, so it is of paramount importance that we learn to design and build cities in ways that promote social justice. "If done well, we'll have an extraordinary future. If not...," he said, trailing off. "We're all tipping our hands on the scales of the future. I think the Center's ability to contribute is extraordinarily essential."
The second Visioneer Award was presented to Google, which was honored because "the company's innovations are transforming the way we design workplaces and revolutionizing the way we think about and use space – the essence of real estate." Brian Cusack, head of display for Google, accepted the award on behalf of the company.
"A big part of Google's culture is the way space is utilized – the way people come together," Cusack said. "It's an incredibly creative, collaborative environment."
The final Visioneer Award went to Spaulding. "We've saved the best for last," Ciochetti said. "I'm incredibly honored and touched to award this next Visioneer Award to the original visioneer, [Hank Spaulding]. ... He has touched the lives of thousands."
Spaulding accepted the award with thanks to "so many people [who] have helped out over the years," and received a standing ovation from the crowd. "I feel wonderful about the success of [the Center]," Spaulding said. "I had a lot of great luck – and I had the whole real estate community that thought it was a great idea."
"They couldn't be honoring a better individual," said David Shamoian in an interview before the ceremony. "He's given so much back to MIT and the real estate industry." Shamoian attended as a representative of Belz Enterprises, one of MIT/CRE's founding sponsors.
Another highlight of the gala was the presentation of the Spaulding Award to Michael J. Smith, Class of 1987. "This is the most important award MIT/CRE gives its alumni," said Michael Tilford, Class of 2009 and co-president of the Alumni/ae Association of the Center for Real Estate (AACRE), in presenting the award. Smith was honored for his work at LCOR developing the 2.7 million-square-foot North Bethesda Center in Maryland, which Smith described as "a truly transformative and forward-thinking project."
In addition, Marion Cunningham, MIT/CRE's managing director, recognized six people who have been with the Center for 20 years or more: Professor Dennis Frenchman, Lecturer W. Tod McGrath, Lecturer Peter Roth, Lecturer Gloria Schuck, Associate Director for Education Maria Vieira, and Professor William Wheaton. "Their contributions have been unique, peerless," Cunningham said.
Guests – including several members of the first MIT/CRE class (1985) and all but one of the Center's former chairs – also had the opportunity to watch a video about the Center, which highlighted some of the major projects MIT/CRE alumni have worked on and featured comments from a variety of people connected to the program, including founders, alumni, and current staffers.
The evening wound down with a live auction, which raised more than $20,500 for the MIT/CRE Fellowship Fund, and revealed the good-natured community at the heart of the Center as fellow alums cajoled each other and laughed together through the bidding.
Seiden no doubt summed up the experience for many when she said, "I'm having a blast. I keep running into people I haven't seen in 15 years." And that was even before the dancing started.