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*Article published in Commercial Investment Real Estate Magazine, September 2005.
Institute Founders’ Passion for Learning and Commitment to Improving CCIM Lives on Through Education Foundation and Shared Experience

First in a series of articles on the Education Foundation of the CCIM Institute



In many ways, the history of the CCIM Institute and its Education Foundation can be chronicled in the professional lives of two visionary founders Jay W. Levine, CCIM, and Victor Lyon, CCIM.  Officially, it’s a history yet to be thoroughly documented.  Like folk legend, the story of the Institute, Foundation and its founders is an oral history – anecdotes, relationships, and wisdom passed along with care, era by era, from elder statesmen and women to new members.


More of an extended family than a typical professional association, the CCIM Institute and its members cherish the many relationships forged and cultivated during their long tenures.  Although the complete history hasn’t been formally chronicled, every member of the organization – every CCIM Designee – knows it, and uses it to propel the organization forward.  And everyone understands how much Jay Levine, known as “Big Jay” to most, and Vic Lyon meant to the organization.  More than founders, they stayed involved – insatiably, passionately involved – in shaping the Institute, its programs, and the real estate professionals it nurtured.


Two Men and A Vision

As CCIM Institute past president Palmer Berge remembers it, in the beginning, “two California boys – one of those, Jay Levine – came up to Seattle in 1967 and put on a week-long, beginning exchange course.”  From his early “barnstorming” days, Levine began sharing his vision to strengthen the credibility, visibility and techniques of the commercial real estate industry with a new breed of aspiring real estate professionals.  Vic Lyon, then a Washington University student and early participant in Levine’s first exchange courses, quickly adopted the vision and worked to take Levine’s curriculum to the next level. 


“Vic Lyon… what a tiger,” Levine reflected in a 1998 interview.  “He had so much enthusiasm and helped us write the courses as we went along… even as a student.” 


“Victor Lyon only had two speeds: stop and wide open,” said Bob Ward, CCIM, president of The Ward Consulting Company, senior CCIM instructor and past president of the CCIM Institute.  “He was the greatest real estate mind I’ve ever encountered…he was a perpetual student.”


Soon, Levine and Lyon had honed their fledgling program into a viable certification program and enduring professional organization.  So impressed by Lyon’s advanced skills and sharp intellect, Levine enlisted him as an instructor helping other students earn the new Certified Property Exchange (CPE) designation.


Before the CPE program, most people breaking into the real estate business in the 1960s were not coming from universities, they were coming from other outside professions, such as business and finance, or from military careers.  After a year or two, seeking to expand their program and establish its legitimacy, they took their program to the National Institute of Real Estate Brokers in Chicago where they launched the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) program.  Levine and Lyon went from offering basic courses in commercial investment to formalizing a CCIM designation and Institute that, for the first time, would set professionals in their industry apart – differentiate them in the marketplace.


Ward remembers that Levine made a powerful first impression in his stature and unique way of relating to his students and colleagues.  Ward first met Levine while taking an introductory course in Reno, Nevada.  “The course had three instructors.  One was this tall, tall gentleman from L.A., who had these black, horn-rimmed glasses on and a suit, and all that – and his name was Jay Levine.  He used to say his office was on the corner of Sunset and Levine.  He wasn’t the typical instructor – he liked the social activities, as well.”


A Commitment to Enhancing the CCIM Designation

Vic Lyon began the CCIM Institute’s first education program.  He was the guiding force in the establishment of the national program in 1969, and remained so until his death in 1990.  The Education Foundation was incorporated in 1991 with a bequest from Lyon with the goal of supporting advanced real estate academics, research and development for the betterment of the commercial real estate industry.  Specifically, the Foundation was established to:


        Grant university scholarships to deserving students of commercial investment real estate or related fields of study

        Fund CCIM chapter scholarships awarded to individuals new to the CCIM course program

        Fund the Victor L. Lyon, CCIM/Distinguished Professorship at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington

        Fund research and development programs that will foster further understanding and knowledge of commercial investment real estate

  • Create and build a general fund that invites, involves, and bonds industry professionals to share in the fulfillment of the Foundation's mission.

Understanding the need to continually give back to the profession and support the enhancement of the CCIM designation, Levine dedicated his energies for a decade to build the Foundation, then he, too, made a significant bequest to the Foundation, providing the impetus for its recent expansion and new life to the vision.


“When the Foundation first started, it operated as a committee meeting twice a year.  Key factors to our recent and future success have been our ability to establish a full-time executive director and staff,” said John Beard, CCIM, president of the Education Foundation.  “With Jay Levine’s contribution, we were able to ensure the Foundation, as well as the money it raised, would be professionally managed.  The organization had been evolving slowly until Jay’s amazing generosity and commitment.”


“Jay Levine led by example.  His actions spoke louder than his words… and he was a man of many, many words!” remembers Jay R. Lucas, CCIM, president of the office and investment division of the Harry B. Lucas Company, Carrollton, Texas, past CCIM Institute president, and one of only four people to receive the Jay Levine Distinguished Service Award. “His gift to the Foundation was just one more shining example of that.”


According to Lucas, Levine left the bulk of his estate to the Education Foundation to ease the burden of fundraising.  He wanted the Foundation to focus more on putting its money to work benefiting current and future members.


“He told the Foundation, ‘I’m giving this money to you, and trust you to decide what to do with it,’” said Lucas.  “He knew that the funds would be invested in the best, long-term interests of the Institute, its members, and the industry as a whole, because he worked on the Foundation for over a decade to instill that ideal in the rest of us.” 


“Jay Levine embodied qualities of a true leader.  When he left his estate, he grew to Paul Bunyan-like stature,” said Susan Groeneveld, executive vice president, CCIM Institute.


Levine was a promoter of people and his profession.  Enthusiastic and passionate, he spoke directly if not loudly, and carried a big stick – literally.  When teaching class, he brought with him a large, wooden 2”x4” with a handle, and would threaten its use upon any student giving wrong answers.  Not only did he want to know that 2+2=4, he wanted you to be able to explain how it became 4.  And he wouldn’t just bring the stick to class, but anywhere he went where serious real estate or Institute business might be discussed; even to the golf course in his golf bag… right next to his 3-wood.


Broadening the Vision

Lucas sees the future of the Foundation to be in investing in the enhancement of the CCIM designation and expansion of programs beyond scholarships.  For example, Education Foundation research and development programs will foster further understanding and knowledge of commercial investment real estate and actively promote and support new courses and materials for incorporation into course curriculum.


“We constantly strive to improve and update our curriculum in order to enhance the CCIM designation,” said Beard.  “After we’ve awarded scholarships, we bring the recipients in to learn from them by listening to their feedback on the program.  This way, the Foundation gets something back from its investment and, even at this early stage, we instill students with the sense of community, involvement, and the value of shared experience emphasized by Jay and Vic.”


In addition, the Education Foundation’s strategic plan addresses critical issues now facing the commercial real estate community, including the need to increase the number of CCIMs, honor practitioners, stimulate excellence in university real estate programs, provide augmented chapter services, and encourage minority participation in the industry.


Earlier this year, the Foundation’s Board of Directors voted to triple its budget for scholarships and programs.  Each chapter also will name an Education Foundation Liaison to help strengthen Foundation ties at the local level.  As a result, exciting new initiatives are planned, including:


  • Full Designation Scholarships available to select CCIM candidates who have completed the CI-101 course to complete their designation
  • Leadership Development Academy Grants
  • Graduate University Scholarships
  • Matching Corporate Scholarships Awards for outstanding graduate real estate universities and Programs.
  • Named Endowed Scholarship Programs.

To help support new programs and augment the major donations of the Institute’s founders, the Foundation kicked of its inaugural Annual Fund Campaign this year and is encouraging full participation by members.


“Perhaps the most compelling of all reasons to give to the Annual Fund is to honor the legacy of Jay Levine and Victor Lyon.  The contributions of our members fuel the cycle of giving established by our founders,” said Duncan Patterson, CCIM, 2005 Annual Fund Campaign chairman.  “New funds help increase scholarships and improve programs to produce more highly skilled and successful CCIMs.  Scholarships raise the visibility of the designation within local communities and the recipients stay involved, ultimately, to serve as leaders within the Institute and Foundation.”


The CCIM Institute developed its Leadership Academy in honor of Jay Levine to provide training for the future leaders of the Institute.  The Education Foundation wants to honor Levine’s passion by providing support to the Academy and its graduates through grants and other programs. 


“Jay Levine, even though he’s gone, still influences the direction of the Foundation and Institute because he had such a profound influence on so many people within the organization while he was still with us,” said Lucas.  “He was so involved and committed to passing on the lessons of his experiences and the collective experiences of other founders in the organization.  If things ever started heading off course, someone would realize ‘this isn’t what Big Jay would have wanted,’ and could easily right the ship.”


Like its founders, the Foundation values relationships.  To strengthen its ties with corporations and universities, the Foundation would like to create more corporate and graduate university scholarships.  In addition, since no definitive listing of the top graduate real estate programs exists, this will give the Foundation an opportunity to position itself as an expert by evaluating, publishing and awarding an annual top-10 list of graduate real estate programs.


“The biggest thing the Foundation has going for it is the shared experiences of members who have been around, stayed involved, and passed on their collective knowledge, decade by decade,” said Groeneveld.  “There’s great value in the fact that they can tell others how the CCIM designation has made a difference in their lives.”


“The people and our program are the best… and will always be the best because people continue to participate,” said Levine in his 1998 interview.  “We have people working with the Foundation that give me the vitality to continue on.”


Travel to Frank Capra’s fictional Bedford Falls from It’s A Wonderful Life to ask about the old Bailey Building and Loan, and you’d hear dozens of stories about George Bailey.  Speak with any long-time CCIM for five minutes about the Institute and its Education Foundation, and you’re sure to be impressed with the tales and lessons taught by “Big Jay” and Vic Lyon, not to mention the adoration expressed by the storytellers.  Called “founding fathers” or “rocks of the organization” by everyone who remembers them, the two men inspired every CCIM, student and colleague with whom they had a relationship.  And that was virtually everyone they met.


“All of us have contributed to the organization in one way or another, and in equal parts,” said Bob Ward.  “But Jay and Victor were head and shoulders above the rest.”


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Readers may look for more articles in this series on the Education Foundation in future issues of CIRE Magazine.


For more information, contact:  Scott Beller @ 202-365-5234

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