For a time, it was a breeding ground for New Jersey’s real estate industry. That’s how George Jacobs recalls Rutgers Business School in the 1980s, tracing a “generation” of developers, finance experts and other executives to the Newark campus. About two dozen of them, in fact, led by former MBA professor Richard Marshall.
But the program hasn’t been the same since Marshall’s retirement in the 1990s.
“Rutgers has had a significant void,” said Jacobs, a Clifton-based developer and president of Jacobs Enterprises Inc. “And there’s a handful of us over the years who have been trying to figure out one thing or another to get it moving again.”
If all goes well, that void can be filled in a little more than a year.
Rutgers officials say they’ve taken the first major step toward launching the academic platform at the university’s new Center for Real Estate Studies. The school has selected its new faculty chair in real estate — spurred by a $1.5 million donation by West Orange-based developer Paul Profeta — and plans to unveil its pick in the coming months.
That will mean someone focused on creating an MBA concentration in real estate at the state’s largest university, one modeled after the elite out-of-state programs that now lure away many of New Jersey’s best and brightest.
“That Profeta chair is here to get Rutgers to be the NYU and Wharton in New Jersey, for real estate,” said Ronald Shapiro, the center’s executive director. “They want to have not only excellence in teaching, they want this to be a major research facility for real estate.”
Graduate courses could begin as soon as fall 2015, Shapiro said, but it’s still too early to say for sure. The school hopes to follow that offering with certificate programs for young real estate professionals and, ultimately, undergraduate courses.
In New Jersey, the only such curriculum is at Monmouth University, which offers graduate and undergraduate concentrations at its Kislak Real Estate Institute.
And if that program is any indication, Rutgers can expect an outpouring of support and interest from New Jersey’s vast commercial real estate industry.
Shapiro has seen the early signs of that enthusiasm since taking his post last July, following three decades as a real estate banker. Case in point: the strong turnout in March when Jon F. Hanson, the revered founder and chairman of the Hampshire Cos., appeared as the inaugural speaker for the center’s Distinguished Lecture Series. The event drew 160 people, with more than half coming from firms that were eager to sponsor the function, Shapiro said.