Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dolph Schayes (1928-2015) - A basketball legend

Dolph Schayes (1928-2015)

There’s a summer camp in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York State, up a big hill from the towns of Bolton Landing and Lake George, on a small body of water called Trout Lake.  It’s called Camp Walden and this special place has been operating continuously since 1931.  I found out about Camp Walden when I was 11, because my best friend Bernie’s dad had a connection to the camp. In many ways, Camp Walden changed my life.

What brings this up is my attendance on Monday in Syracuse, New York, at the funeral of long-time friend Dolph Schayes.  Dolph was a basketball player (it’s strange how one minute we refer to someone as ‘is’ and in the next instance, it becomes ‘was’).  In fact, Dolph was named one of the 50 greatest basketball players in NBA (National Basketball Association) History!  And for many years, Dolph ran a week-long basketball camp following the end of the regular 8-week summer camp season at Walden.  While there is now a proliferation of these camps, Dolph’s was the second of its kind when he started.  Then at some point, Dolph became a part owner of Camp Walden with Mel Besdin and was there for the entire summer.  Like a number of children in that era, Dolph and his wife Naomi’s children, David, Debbie, Carrie and Danny Schayes, spent their summers from a very young age at Walden. 

Walden was - and still is - a special place. Life-long friendships (and some marriages) started there and, even if there’s 30 years - or more - between interactions, when you run into a fellow ‘Waldenite’ the conversation picks up as if it were yesterday.  I actually had this experience Monday when, at the reception following Dolph’s beautiful funeral service at Temple Concord in Syracuse, I ran into Mike Stark.  Mike was the head counselor at camp when I was a camper and later a counselor.  While I had seen his daughter Cindy a couple of times over the years, this was the first time I had seen Mike in, oh, more than 40 years!  Mike was a teacher in Syracuse and then a school administrator.  And he was also a basketball coach and referee and was a star guard on the Syracuse University basketball team.  Now 88 years old, and sharp as a tack, Mike and I reminisced about the old days and a few of the old crowd.  It was wonderful to see him again.

Because of Dolph’s involvement, Camp Walden attracted some basketball players who became camp counselors.  Virtually all were involved in the Syracuse basketball program but due to NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) rules at that time, only 2 or 3 (if memory serves me well) players from the same college team could be at a summer camp at the same time otherwise it would be seen as the team trying to get a head start on the ‘legal’ first day of practice - October 15 (This date has since evolved into a ritual on many college campuses called ‘Midnight Madness’ - where the first practice of the season starts at midnight on October 15 – and the basketball arenas are filled).  One of those Syracuse players that was a counselor at Walden for several years is Jim Boeheim.  Jimmy played for the Syracuse Orangemen in the 1960’s and has been connected with the team in a coaching capacity (first as an assistant and now as head coach) since 1969 – being named head coach in 1976.  Jim’s counselor days at Walden were in the mid/late 1960’s and that’s when he and I met. In an online piece reporting Dolph’s death last week, Jimmy is quoted, "Dolph is a legendary figure in Syracuse. He was an all-time great, great player. His camp had a big influence on me." 

At Dolph’s funeral, some of his 9 grandchildren spoke talking about their Grandpa, not as a basketball legend but as a person.  They talked about the funny games he played with them (many of them made up by the man himself) and his involvement with their lives.  Then Dolph’s four children spoke about their dad.  His humility. His passion for history. The eulogies included a number of comments, which drew laughter from the packed temple audience.  Dolph would not have had it any differently – he had a great sense of humor and was always playing games – and not just basketball games!  His son Danny was also a star basketball player at Syracuse University and went on to an 18-year career in the NBA.  He told a few ‘funny’ stories about what it was like for him, growing up playing basketball, with his Dad in the stands.  Dolph was a passionate competitor who not only played professional basketball but also coached the Philadelphia 76ers and was the supervisor of the NBA referees.  Danny related one story when, during a professional game he was playing in, there was a bad call made against him.  Dolph ran down in the stands to get behind the scorer’s table (right at courtside) and shouted to the official, “I should never have hired you!”  Hearing this story, the mourners totally broke up in laughter – that was Dolph.

You see, Dolph Schayes was a special person – who cared, really cared, about people.  It was mentioned how he would talk with random people, everywhere he went, showing sincere interest in them.  People looked up to Dolph – not just because he stood 6’8” – but because of who he was as a man – a guy who grew up spending a lot of time on the basketball court in the Bronx (NY), as a star basketball player at DeWitt Clinton High School and New York University (NYU) and graduating from there with a degree in, what is now called aerospace engineering - the primary field of engineering concerned with the development of aircraft and spacecraft. 

Sitting amongst Dolph’s family and friends yesterday, it struck me that Dolph was not a man who you felt would ever die.  He was a truly larger-than-life figure, someone whose smile was ever-present and who made everyone he came in contact with feel important. How special is that?  Some of what I heard yesterday got me thinking about my own life and maybe some things that I’d like to change before my time comes – 30+ years down the road. 

Dolph Schayes was one of the kindest, most generous men I have ever known.  My brother Jay included this in an email to the family:

I have strong memories of his gentleness and kindness.

I remember first meeting him when I was 10 years old.  He was by far the biggest man I had ever seen.  I believe my eyes were at his belt buckle.  Standing close to him, I looked up to see his smiling face and warm eyes.  This memory is vivid.  I have other memories of Dolph, but none of them nearly so clear.

What I do recall was that he was ALWAYS soft spoken, kind, warm, and NEVER harsh or critical.  Even when I was caught doing things that were highly inappropriate, Dolph was ALWAYS the most gentle, sincere and empathetic adult at Camp.

Camp Walden was a very important part of my life.

Dolph was a very powerful influence on me.

I carry him with me.

Jay, this is a beautiful testament to a special guy.

Camp Walden has been owned since the early 2000’s by Lauren and Mark Bernstein. They are wonderful people who have done amazing things with the camp.  Lauren and Mark also appreciate and respect Walden’s history and alumni community.  Those of us old-timers are always welcome to visit, something I’ve done in the past two seasons.  Under them the camp embodies the same special family feeling that it had when I was there and I know many life-long friendships are still beginning there.  I believe it’s one of the finest summer camps anywhere with facilities that none of us, back in the day, could even imagine.  But the property is still the same beautiful place – built on a hill, overlooking Trout Lake with newer buildings having been constructed to ‘fit in’ with the older bunks and administrative buildings. 

In 2003, a bunch of us organized a camp reunion – if it weren’t for the Internet and email it wouldn’t have been possible.  More than 50 of us converged on Montreal.  The camp has always attracted campers and counselors from Montreal, Syracuse and the greater New York City area.  It was a special time.  The camp is sponsoring a reunion day next June and some of us are already in touch and plan to make a weekend of it.  I have a feeling that Dolph would have come to that reunion but while the big man with the even bigger heart won’t be there, his spirit will be and I’m sure we will be sharing ‘Dolph Stories.’ 

I have a few of my own Dolph stories, which I’ll be happy to share if you’re interested the next time we see each other.  Camp Walden was a very important part of my life. Those of us that knew Dolph from Camp Walden share special memories, of him and of a time when things were very different in the world – much simpler than today.  They are times that I would not trade for anything.

Bud Poliquin, Syracuse sportswriter and host of a daily sports talk show on ESPN radio wrote an excellent piece about Dolph’s funeral, which can be found here.

I know all my Walden friends join me in sharing our sincerest condolences to Dolph’s family – Naomi, his wife of more than 60 years (an accomplished pianist I learned this week); their four children - David, Debbie, Carrie and Danny; his nine grandchildren  - Abbi, Bengie, Carla, Hannah, Julia, Kevin, Logan, Mickey and Rachel) and all those whose lives he touched in a way similar to how he touched mine and my brothers’ – and there are a lot of those folks out there! Given Dolph’s college degree in aerospace engineering I can visualize him right now, in his own spacecraft, traveling the heavens and visiting with people he knew, and those he’s never met.  Dolph loved people and everyone loved Dolph.

Dolph and me 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Congratulations Lynn Thurber / NAREIM Capital Raising and Investor Relations Meeting / John Rutledge and The Chicago Realty Club

Congratulations Lynn Thurber

Sometimes the serendipity of life amazes even a true believe like me. In Chicago last week, I learned, last minute, that there was a very special industry event taking place on Thursday night.  Reaching out to a friend who works for LaSalle Investment Management, I ended up not only getting a ticket but also being invited to sit at one of their tables.

Lynn Thurber, Chairman of LaSalle Investment Management, received the 21st Annual Lifetime Achievement Award presentation of ULI (Urban Land Institute) Chicago. This award honors an individual whose achievements throughout their lifetime exemplify personal and professional contributions to the real estate industry and to the community. The banquet hall at the Four Seasons Hotel was filled with more than 600 people, showing their support of Lynn and ULI.

Introductory comments by event co-chair Jacques Gordon, Global Head of Research and Strategy at LaSalle, painted a wonderful picture of Lynn’s career (he also injected some fun stuff and photos that had us - and Lynn - laughing!).

Jacques’s introduction of Lynn included mention of her roles as immediate past global Chairman of the Board of ULI.  Lynn had also been the chair of PREA (Pension Real Estate Association) and a member of the Board of Directors and Executive of AFIRE (Association of Foreign Investors in {U.S.} Real Estate).  She has also held numerous other board seats and positions with organizations inside and outside the commercial real estate industry.   

While Jacques was a tough act to follow, Jeff Jacobson, Global CEO of LaSalle Investment Management, shared some of his own experiences about working with and knowing Lynn:

“In the 9 years that I’ve been in this job, Lynn has been my consigliore.  For many of those years we had a standing weekly phone call set up to discuss things.  At some point, we were talking and thought that maybe the call wasn’t necessary any more….then I realized it was!  

When traveling with Lynn I learned that she is capable of falling asleep on a transatlantic flight faster than anyone else I’ve ever known.  Then, when the flight lands, she walks off the plane, looking and sounding as alert as if she had just strolled down the street to her office.

She has been a great friend and mentor who, while having strong opinions, has always respected mine.”

From an article on the Midwest Real Estate News website:
“Lynn has been an inspiration, role model and mentor to many women and men across our industry and around the world most recently as ULI’s Global Chairman and before that as Chief Executive Officer of LaSalle Investment Management.  Lynn has been at the forefront of many of the most important trends in the industry today including globalization, sustainability and diversity within the workplace,” says Jeff Jacobson.

The article continues saying that beyond her accomplishments, Thurber’s most enduring leadership trait is her uncompromising honesty and integrity.  “No matter what the situation, Lynn has always abided by the principle of putting honesty and clients above all else which has earned her the utmost trust and respect within our industry”, added Jacobson.

Two women who attended the dinner and who had worked with and for Lynn at different parts of their careers, shared these thoughts with me:

Lynn was my boss at the outset of my Morgan Stanley days, and I can't think of a time when I wasn't working with her during my seven years there.   Lynn is probably the smartest person I've ever worked with - and in addition to the marvelously analytic mind, there is charm, practicality and humor.  I am lucky to have worked for her, been taught by her, been supported by her.”  

Mary McCarthy
Former Senior Managing Director – Capital Markets for Hines

“I could speak about Lynn’s precision in addressing critical concerns in complex issues, or the high standards she sets for herself and by example has encouraged all around her to reach and exceed expectations.  Instead I will draw focus to her as one of the first people in our industry to lead a truly global organization.   Lynn successfully set the stage for LaSalle to manage the complexity of working across multiple borders with teams of individuals from distinct cultural backgrounds, while creating a sense of partnership and camaraderie for all.”

Joyce Shapiro
Former International Director, LaSalle Investment Management

Another event attendee had this to say:
Lynn is masterful at listening and making sure you are finished talking before she speaks. There would be a long pause and then pearls of wisdom and frank, much-needed substantive advice would follow.

And, another woman emailed me that just last week, she wrote to Lynn telling her what a "positive and powerful role model she has been to me” (I had attended a Women in Private Equity conference in London and this again reinforced to me the importance of having leading and inspiring role models).

Lynn’s acceptance speech focused on two things:  her commitment to helping women and minorities grow and achieve success in the commercial real estate industry and her passion for the global mission of ULI.  She urged all in the audience to become a career champion for a woman or minority in the industry.

Lynn spoke affectionately about Bowen “Buzz” McCoy, her personal career champion who gave her opportunities to stretch herself and by doing so expand her knowledge of not only the technical aspects of the real estate investment management business but also the importance of integrity.  She credits Buzz with giving her the solid foundation on which she built her career.  Buzz was a General Partner of Morgan Stanley where he developed and ran the commercial real estate finance unit for many years.  He is also the author of ‘Living into Leadership: A Journey in Ethics’. 

I got to know Lynn in a former life when LaSalle Investment Management was my client.  Over the years, as I spent more time with her, I discovered a person that was truly real.  No matter that she was CEO of a global real estate investment management firm or chair of this or that organization.  She was down to earth. As my life and career evolved, Lynn was interested - sincerely interested - in what I was doing, how things were going and how could she help.  Her sage advice helped me during some challenging periods. One trait that I have always admired about Lynn is that if she says she’s going to do something, she does it.  I feel fortunate to be able to call Lynn Thurber my friend. 

Congratulations Lynn! 

National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers - Capital Raising and Investor Relations Meeting

Last week I was in Chicago for NAREIM’s Capital Raising and Investor Relations meeting.  True to form, this event brought together a diverse group of capital raisers and investor relations professionals.  As most of us have heard many times, there really is no such thing as a dumb question – if it’s something on your mind, there’s a heck of a good chance that at least one other person (and usually many more) in the audience are thinking and wondering about the same thing.  NAREIM President Gunnar Branson encouraged all present to ‘ask dumb questions.’  Gunnar also has established a wonderful philosophy about NAREIM meetings and calls the name badge, ‘Your license to think in public.’

Every time I attend a NAREIM event I’m reminded about how special they are.  The meetings (see the 2016 calendar here) attract manageable size groups – from 20 to 60 – which allows for everyone to participate in a safe environment. 

While the 'house rules don’t allow me to share actual discussion content from the meeting, I can tell you some of the topics that were debated:
  • Activism and Investment Capital:  How can we best manage investment protestors?
  • How the SEC looks at real estate and how you should prepare for your inevitable examination.
  • How are investors changing their approach to direct investing and separate accounts vs. traditional fund investing? (Panel included LP’s)
  • How might capital raising be changed in the next five years by such things as crowd funding?
The discussions at NAREIM meetings are stimulating and don’t fit neatly inside a box.  You’re guaranteed to leave with some good takeaways to share with your colleagues. 

John Rutledge and the Chicago Realty Club Luncheon

John Rutledge and I met a number of years ago through this column.  As has happened, he read something that resonated with him and decided to hit ‘Reply’ and write back to me.  He and I later met in person at a CRE (Counselors of Real Estate) event and have been friends ever since.

John is President of Rutledge Company LLC and has had an extremely diverse commercial real estate background – managing, leasing, acquiring, disposing and financing. His consulting activities and speaking engagements have taken him to various countries - including Russia and other former communist bloc nations as they have sought to privatize their markets - and his articles have appeared in various American and foreign publications.

Last week John knew I was going to be in Chicago and extended an invitation to my partner Liz Weiner and I to attend the annual holiday luncheon of The Realty Club of Chicago (founded 1915!). What a fun and joyous event it was – with a musical flavor.  A pianist played Christmas music.  But it was the singing of the Realty Club Theme Song that was the highlight (led by Mary Ludgin, Director of Global Investment Research at Heitman).

Earlier this year, John and Noah Shales, senior managing director with Newmark Grubb Knight Frank's Global Corporate Services group and 2015 Chairman of the Counselors of Real Estate (CRE), invited Liz and I to conduct a mini-presentation coaching workshop at one of the their luncheons, which was a lot of fun.

Times like these are special and provide memorable moments. Thanks John, for being a good friend and for allowing us to be part of The Realty Club of Chicago family one more time.

Lobby of The Drake Hotel, Chicago

On the Road…

Dec. 8-16: New York for a variety of activities including attending RCA's Holiday party, conducting a presentation coaching workshop for a client and year-end meetings with some industry friends.


Jan. 20-22: IMN’s 13th Annual Winter Forum on Real Estate Opportunity and Private Fund Investing, Laguna Beach, CA  

Jan. 26-27: NAREIM Acquisitions and Dispositions, Beverly Hills, CA

Jan. 28: Felix /Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, Los Angeles, CA 

Feb. 2:  Felix/ Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, Dallas, TX

Feb.4:  Felix/ Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, Houston, TX 

Feb. 16-17: NAREIM Research and Investment Management, Chicago, IL 

Feb. 18:  Felix / Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, Chicago, IL 

Mar. 8 & 9: Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) Conference, Boston, MA

Mar. 10: Felix / Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, New York City

Apr. 6-7: NAREIM Asset and Portfolio Management, Atlanta, GA 

Apr. 8:  Felix/ Weiner Women’s Leadership Workshop, Atlanta, GA

Apr. 13-14:  PERE Global Investor Forum, Los Angeles, CA

Best wishes to you for a healthy and happy holiday season and New Year!



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