Securing A Strong Foundation
New Direct Support Organization Aims to Make Real Property Gifts a Primary Part of Florida State Fundraising
By Emily Nix
- Bob Ervin Sr. donated the home he shared with late wife Frances Ervin to FSU in her memory. The newly formed Real Estate Foundation will support Florida State through similar gifts. Photo by Tracy Hamilton.
- The Real Estate Foundation Board of Directors held an inaugural meeting on July 7, 2011.
- The founding members of the Real Estate Foundation Board of Directors are (from left to right) Tom Jennings, Ed Burr, Beth Azor, Brian Swain, Steve Pattison and Leslie McKeon. (Not pictured: Bob Breslau.) Photo by Jennifer Little.
Like many Florida State College for Women alumnae of the World War II generation, 1941 graduate Frances Cushing Ervin's greatest legacy may well be her family and their accomplishments, from her husband on down to her grandchildren.
In honor of the love and devotion of their everyday hero - their wife and mother - the Ervin family chose to make a gift in her name to a cause they knew she would appreciate.
After Frances's death on Jan. 9, 2007, her husband and children determined that an appropriate way to honor her memory was with a gift reflecting her interests. Thus, they created a professorship in her name: The Frances Cushing Ervin Professorship in the Department of English.
Pleased with the initial gift facilitated by daughter Anne Ervin Rowe (B.A. '67), retired dean of the faculties and deputy provost at The Florida State University, and son Robert M. Ervin Jr. (B.A. '79, J.D. '82), Bob Ervin Sr. made the decision to make an additional gift to the fund - that of the couple's Tallahassee home.
This type of gift, formally referred to as a retained life estate, allows the donor to make a significant contribution to FSU. The donor may continue living in his or her home throughout his or her lifetime while benefiting from an income tax deduction in the year the gift was made. If at any time the donor decides to relinquish the life estate, he or she may do so. Otherwise, the property is given over to the university after the donor's lifetime.
This real property gift is one of the first of many that the newly established Florida State University Real Estate Foundation will use to impact the university's programs and colleges.
The Real Estate Foundation exists primarily to receive contributions of real estate to hold, manage, lease, mortgage, develop, administer or sell in order to contribute or distribute all or a portion of the net proceeds from such activity to The Florida State University and The Florida State University Foundation. The fledgling direct support organization held its first board of directors meeting on Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Tallahassee.
“It's clear that our group brings different talents and strengths to the table.”
With its creation in advance of Florida State's upcoming capital campaign, the Real Estate Foundation will provide growth opportunities for the university to invest and develop potential property under the guidance of a board of directors with backgrounds in professional real estate development, accounting and management. The Real Estate Foundation board is comprised of seven directors from across the state of Florida, six of whom are graduates of The Florida State University: Chairwoman Beth Azor, Davie, Fla.; Vice Chairman Brian Swain, Winter Haven, Fla.; Bob Breslau, Davie, Fla.; Ed Burr, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.; Tom Jennings, Tallahassee, Fla.; Leslie McKeon, St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Steve Pattison, Plantation, Fla.
“We have put together a fabulous team to lead the Real Estate Foundation,” Board of Directors Chairwoman Beth Azor said. “It was important for us to have many direct support organizations represented, and we also asked for recommendations based on geographic representation.”
Diversity in the real estate industry was another important factor in selecting board members.
“We may get a gift presentation or a donor who asks us to be involved in residential, office, retail or industrial deals, and it's important for our experience to be balanced,” Azor said. “It's clear that our group brings different talents and strengths to the table.”
When Azor joined The Florida State University Foundation Board of Trustees in 2005, her natural connection to real estate led her to investigate the university's involvement with the industry.
“On the Foundation board, I found alumni and friends asking if we were interested in taking gifts of real estate. The Foundation does an excellent job at comparing peer institutions, so in conducting surveys and speaking with our peers, we found that other universities were doing much more with real estate. They were engaging and proactively encouraging alumni and friends to bring gifts of real estate to the institutions' attention.”
Since then, Azor, her colleagues on the board and university and Foundation staff have worked tirelessly to establish the Real Estate Foundation and promote it within the Florida State community and among real estate professionals state- and nationwide.
The College of Business's annual Real Estate Trends & Networking Conference in October allowed the board of directors to introduce the Real Estate Foundation to about 600 Florida State alumni and friends in the real estate industry; share the Real Estate Foundation's mission; and explain strategies professionals can use to connect their clients with The Florida State University.
Additionally, Azor said, through the Foundation and through connections and industry affiliations, the Real Estate Foundation will be able to engage industry groups and those with real estate holdings in learning how they can help the new organization achieve its goals.
Azor, her colleagues on the board and university and Foundation staff have worked tirelessly to establish the Real Estate Foundation.
Foundation Chief Financial Officer and Real Estate Foundation Treasurer Jerry Ganz added, “Eventually, we hope gifts to the Real Estate Foundation will not just take the form of the typical pass-through property that is sold with the proceeds being provided to a specific college or unit. We hope to obtain some income-producing properties that can be retained by the Real Estate Foundation and managed for the continued success of the university. We want to have the opportunity to look at all options available that might positively impact the students and programs of The Florida State University.”
The creation of the Real Estate Foundation, coupled with its proven leadership, is yet another way Florida State is striving to become a university of unparalleled growth and success.
“The Real Estate Foundation has the potential to help grow our university through alumni and friends' gifts of real estate and to assist the university in that growth by utilizing real estate principles at the right time and place,” Azor said. “The Real Estate Foundation will counterbalance the negative impact of the current economic climate and assist in accomplishing fundraising goals that Florida State has wanted to achieve for many years.”
The Florida State University Real Estate Foundation is registered as a separate corporation in the state of Florida that has been approved as a direct support organization of the university. The corporation is currently awaiting a decision from the Internal Revenue Service relative to its application for tax-exempt, charitable status.