The University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors has recognized the naming of the White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate, an evolution of the UVA Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment, established in 2021. The new Center name arrives with news of a significant $2.5 million gift establishing the Robert and Cheryl Byron Endowment, an investment that has driven the Center to surpass its $20 million endowment goal. The name recognizes the instrumental dedication and support of three of its leading donors: Robert M. White Jr. (McIntire ’87), the Ruffin Foundation, and Robert G. Byron (A&S ’73, Law ’76).
“The Byron Endowment empowers us to not only rename the Center and honor its three greatest champions, but also to make critical enhancements to better serve students, faculty, and alumni from across Grounds,” says McIntire John A. Griffin Dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins. “As we continue to build upon the Center’s foundation, it is touching to collaborate with all three of these leaders who love UVA and, through their vision and dedication, are committed to its success so often and in so many ways.”
Support for the Center was initiated in 2021 by White, Founder of Real Capital Analytics, the Center’s Advisory Board Chair, and an Executive Committee Member of the Board, who provided a $10 million gift that enabled the University to more actively pursue cross-curricular, high-impact efforts in real estate study and knowledge sharing under one umbrella. In March 2023, a $5 million gift establishing the Ruffin Foundation Endowment bolstered existing commercial real estate-oriented academic programming, research, and engagement efforts. Strengthening the impact of the existing leadership investments, the newest endowment provides vital resources and moves the Center past its initial funding goal.
The fresh resources position the Center to better engage in high-impact activities and will amplify and refine real estate-oriented academic programming; faculty, student, and industry research; as well as engagement efforts across the University and within the greater Charlottesville community. It will also assist in generating scholarships, producing travel grants, funding scholarly research, and providing necessary capital for community-based projects.
“We are fortunate to be in a position to further support the growth trajectory of the Center,” Byron says. “I am glad we are able to devote time, energy, and financial support for this initiative, which has become a key part of our lives at this point in my career. Impacting our students, alumni, faculty, industry, and the University with this gift to the Center is incredibly meaningful to Cheryl and me.”
Byron, Chairman, Co-CEO, and Co-Founder of Blue Vista Capital Management, who serves as an Executive Committee Member and as Vice Chair for Alumni and Industry Engagement for the Center’s Advisory Board, was a determined early advocate for the Center’s creation. Recognizing its potential to meet an essential need on Grounds, he was committed to sharing his vision and garnering support from UVA leadership, fellow graduates, and friends of the University alike. The inaugural recipient and namesake of the Center’s Robert G. Byron Distinguished Alumni Award, he has been highly influential in his tireless work for real estate initiatives across the University.
“Robert’s personal commitment was the driving force in establishing the Center,” White says. “Going back more than a decade, his dedication to its founding and ability to bring together alumni and administration have been nothing short of admirable. This generous gift is yet another example of his enthusiasm and vision to ensure the Center’s future success.”
Jenkins notes, “As our beloved late Center Director Drew Sanderford noted when he learned of the gift, ‘The Byrons are not only lifting up the Center, but they are also supporting the University in its work to become an institution that is both great and good.’
About the White Ruffin Byron Center for Real Estate
Established in 2021 and administrated by the McIntire School of Commerce, the Center is a pan-University organization working in service of students, faculty, alumni, and industry partners across Grounds. The mission of the Center is to enhance the quality of the built environment and our understanding of its influence on all aspects of our lives through discovery and debate relating to the art and science of real estate.