One studied accounting. Another, political science. The third, English. These three Saint Joseph’s graduates discovered after graduation that they wanted to pursue careers in real estate. Now, they are working to help SJU students find their way more directly into the increasingly robust and diverse real estate marketplace.

Anthony Nichols Sr. ’67, Joseph Kessler, Esq. ’79, and Dennis Durkin ’74 are the driving forces behind the mentoring, networking and, within the last few years, creation of industry-specific courses that are central to the mission of the Alumni Association’s Real Estate and Construction Chapter (REC).

What Nichols, Kessler and Durkin have discovered is that their stories are not unique. In developing REC, they have contacted about 1,200 SJU alumni in the region — from lawyers to marketing professionals to bankers — who have become engaged in the real estate profession without studying it in college.

The goal in creating the alumni association chapter was to “find a way to bring those people together and give them a chance to network and get more involved at St. Joe’s,” says Kessler, partner and chair of the Real Estate Group for Dilworth Paxson and an SJU Trustee. But they also set their sights on representing their areas of expertise in the curriculum.

“For years, many of us in the real estate business have thought and hoped there might be courses available at the University,” says Pete Davisson, SIOR, CCIM ’63, a founding principal of Jackson Cross Partners.

That goal has been achieved as the number and variety of classes where alumni serve as guest speakers and involve students in actual real estate projects grow. Last spring, Haub School of Business Dean Joseph A. DiAngelo Jr., Ed.D. ’70, approved a program under which the established base of courses could grow into a concentration of academic offerings.

In the 2013 fall semester, Saint Joseph’s residential real estate course taught the fundamentals of ownership transactions and financing. This spring, a course will take students through the development history of the Cira Center and its surrounding complex, as well as the restored and renovated IRS building (formerly the city’s main U.S. Post Office). Both are in Philadelphia’s University City area near 30th and Market streets.

The real estate industry has “terrific breadth and depth in terms of its career opportunities,” says George Alburger ’68, CFO at Liberty Property Trust, which is involved in the redevelopment of the 1,200- acre campus of the decommissioned U.S. Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia. Alburger, a member of the REC Advisory Board, has guest lectured on campus several times through the business school’s finance curriculum.

“You can enter the business from many different spots, but to enter after graduation with some foundation would make you a more obvious candidate to get into the business,” Alburger says. Career options include leasing, property management, land planning, development and finance.

Assistant Professor Dan Jubinski, Ph.D., who has taught finance for nearly two decades, wanted to incorporate real estate “because it’s a growing area in finance itself.” He says the introduction of these courses has kept the University on the cutting edge.

As REC also looks to expand the current academic offerings to include continuing education for professionals to earn real estate designations, the alumni chapter maintains its commitment to foster successful mentoring and internship connections.

Kathie Carr ’77, a broker with a long, successful career in commercial real estate, often counsels SJU students. At a certain point, she says, “I looked back and realized I wanted to help women get up the ladder and have them benefit from the lessons I had learned.”

Helping students and young graduates make connections, obtain internships and secure positions in the industry has always been at the heart of REC’s activities. “Everyone in the group holds mentoring dear, and it’s part of our mission statement,” Carr says of REC. Alessandra Corso ’09, who works in commercial property management for Behringer Harvard, is just one of the many who has benefited from it.

“Kathie took me under her wing and made introductions for me in the industry,” Corso says, adding that their relationship is a “really important part of my professional life.” During her junior year at SJU, Corso founded a Real Estate Society for students that helps connect them with professionals in the industry. Since graduating, the finance major has remained involved with the society as an advisor, sharing job possibilities and relevant information with the students. The society and alumni chapter are working to solidify the mentoring program, she says, “so we have more stories like mine.”

In addition to cultivating one-on-one connections, REC has created a series of events to engage students and alumni. REC partnered with the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, Independence Blue Cross and the Philadelphia Eagles to offer a Healthcare and Higher Education Green Building Summit at Lincoln Financial Field last October, and has held events with Urban Outfitters and GlaxoSmithKline at the Navy Yard. At its annual Christmas luncheon, the Timothy R. Lannon, S.J., Leader of the Year Award, named for SJU’s 26th president, is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a lifetime of success in real estate or a project of renown, along with dedication and service to the University. Robert D. Falese Jr. ’69, president of CBA&G and SJU Board of Trustees chair, was the 2013 recipient.

Each panel, networking and speaker event “continues to open up new doors and bring in new people,” says Nichols, chairman emeritus and trustee of Brandywine Realty Trust and a graduate of Saint Joseph’s former University College (evening school). The topics, which have ranged from real estate investment trusts to developing senior housing, are trending and never duplicated.

Durkin, senior vice president of CB Richard Ellis and an SJU Trustee, says new graduates face a challenging economy. “They’re looking for an end game,” he says. “There’s probably a little too much pressure for kids to make a decision at 20 years old.

“The reality is, it’s a journey.”

Lucky for them, Durkin and REC are working to help jump-start those journeys.

Anthony Nichols Sr. '67
Brandywine Realty Trust
Joseph F. Kessler, Esq. '79
Dilworth Paxson, LLP
Deputy Chair
Joseph F. Kessler, Esq. ’79
Dilworth Paxson, LLP
George Alburger ’68
Liberty Property Trust
Paul Leis ’73
PJL Realty Advisors, Inc.
Jim Brecker ’86
Irwin & Leighton, Inc.
John McManus ’70
McManus Partnership
Brian Campbell ’80
Berkadia Commercial Mortgage
Brian Murphy ’78
Tremont Realty Advisors, Inc.
Kathie Carr ’77
Keller Williams
Chris Rosati ’81
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services

Fox and Roach Realtors
Alessandra Corso ’09
Behringer Harvard
John Rush ’75
CBRE, Inc.
Pete Davisson ’63
Jackson Cross Partners, LLC
Chris Terlizzi ’77
First Niagara
Patrick Gallagher ’03
Jones Lang LaSalle
For more info: