The REAL Bright Summit, the bold, week-long initiative by the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation, raised more than $400,000, served more than 700 students from across the country and attracted more than 600 industry leaders for the REAL Bright Night virtual event featuring Penny Pritzker and Sam Zell. The REAL Bright Summit was presented by Old Second National Bank.
“The Real Bright Summit, and all it encompassed, was an extremely bright period of time in a year that has challenged so much of what we do and who we support,” said Katie Hurley Wales, executive director of the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation. “It was the result of the dedication, hard work and generosity of the leadership of the foundation, our board members, friends, volunteers and the loyal members of the commercial real estate industry.”
Over the course of five days, beginning on Monday, January 25 with the Retail Real Estate Roundtable featuring Ken Bernstein (Acadia Realty Trust), Conor Flynn (Kimco Realty) and Peter Borzak (Pine Tree LCC), through the Career Fair on Friday afternoon, more than 120 speakers from throughout the country and across all product sectors shared their perspectives with students from 90 different universities. The Summit included five “EisenEd Talks”, a series of c-suite coffee conversations, and an extensive line-up of small group discussions with industry leaders and rising stars featuring Curt Bailey (Related Midwest), Vince Corno (Starwood Retail Partners), Stuart Handler (TLC Management Co.) and Trisha Connolly (B6 Real Estate Advisors).
Summit co-chairs were Nick Bartholomew (Pine Tree LLC), Christian Williams (CBRE), Siteng Ma (The Scion Group), Dave Neilson (Old Second National Bank), Joel Simmons (Newmark) and Jenna Goebig (Facebook). The president of the foundation is Peter Eisenberg of Elliss Park Partners and the executive director is Katie Hurley Wales.
“Our industry has been built and continually re-energized by people who dream big and embrace all that is possible,” said Peter Eisenberg. “We are hopeful that the REAL Bright Summit’s ability to bring leaders and students from across the country (and globe) will inspire a ripple effect on the students served.”
The week reached a crescendo on Thursday evening when Penny Pritzker and Sam Zell took the stage in interviews conducted by Hanna Oimoen, associate at Pritzker Realty Group (and associate board member of the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation) and Collete English Dixon, executive director, Bennett Institute Real Estate. Full interviews, both transcript and video versions, are linked in the event’s REAL Bright Networking Guidebook.
In her part of the program, Pritzker characterized herself as a person who is a business builder/creator, something she learned at the dinner table from her father, one of the founders of Hyatt Hotels. She noted that anyone who starts a business and/or tries to build a business is likely to encounter failures. “The first thing you learn is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep moving forward.”
In highlighting her civic work, she acknowledged how she came to understand that when presidential candidate Barack Obama called to lead fundraising for his campaign, it was destiny knocking at her door and an opportunity to serve.
Zell recounted how he and a college friend took the very bold approach that they were the right two candidates to lease and manage an under-construction apartment building in Ann Arbor because they were students and knew the target market. It worked, and the rest is history.
The interview, covering a wide range of topics, elicited Zell’s current perspective for each sector. Zell addressed the office market and the need for office space by saying, “We’re social animals. We interface with each other. We create progressive results from one-plus-one-equals-three. I think that as soon as the central business districts are back and alive and vacancies are pervasive, you’re going to see the office market go back to where it was before.”
Ironically, a partner of Zell’s in Equity Group Investments, and its predecessors, was Robert Lurie for whom the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University is named. The Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation has been a staunch supporter of the Cancer Center, and the work it does, for years.
Among the REAL Bright Summit Sponsors that helped to make the week-long event possible for real estate students across the country include Old Second National Bank, France Media, CLAYCO, Cullinan Properties Ltd., Elliss Park Partners, Harrison & Held LLP, Lake Shore, Marcus & Millichap, NARE, Swinerton, The Taxman Corporation, TCF Bank, Wintrust Commercial Real Estate, Becker Gurian, CIBC, Elrod Friedman LLP, FGMK, Inland Bank, Newmark, and Starwood Retail Partners.
Proceeds from the REAL Bright Summit benefit the foundation’s two-pronged mission which includes advancing gastrointestinal cancer research and real estate education. Donations to the Harold E. Eisenberg Foundation are still being accepted via their donation page. A donation of as little as $50 can power a mentorship and the foundation received over 100 mentorship requests last week alone.