The inaugural Fall Conference hosted by the UVA Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment on Nov. 11, 2022, began with one of the day’s highlights: the announcement of the James W. Todd Bicentennial Professorship, named in honor of prominent real estate adviser, developer, investor, and U.S. Navy veteran Jim Todd (McIntire ’60, Darden ’64).
The late alumnus will forever be remembered for his seminal input and countless hours he provided in the creation of McIntire’s Real Estate Track and for his foundational guidance in what developed into programs that continue to elevate scholarship in the subject in schools across the University.
The fund for the professorship, established with a $3.5 million gift from the Todd family, qualifies for the UVA’s Bicentennial Professorship Fund Matching Program, raising the total impact of the gift to $5.25 million. The income generated by the fund will support an endowed scholar working in the field of real estate at the Commerce School.
John A. Griffin Dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins shared the good news with conference attendees, recounting Todd’s commitment, passion, and enthusiasm for real estate and other initiatives at UVA.
“Jim served on the McIntire Foundation Board for many years, championing all of McIntire’s programs, including the advent of many graduate programs, and in recent years, he worked to develop the pan-University minor in real estate,” Jenkins says.
“Many people in this room can attest that Jim had great respect and support for faculty, and recognized the need for increased support to attract and retain world-class scholars and teachers,” she adds, noting that it was suitable that the “profoundly impactful” professorship was created in his name. “Jim was indeed a transformational figure, and this gift will preserve his legacy and propel us into a most successful future.”
Jenkins then asked Sharon Todd, his wife of 25 years, to join her at the podium in order to acknowledge her and her family for their role in the establishment of the professorship.
As a symbol of Sharon’s and Jim’s dedication, service, and lasting legacy to both McIntire and the greater UVA community, Sharon was then honored with the University’s most prestigious award, the University Chair.
“Jim loved McIntire and wanted to recognize the education he received that enabled him to succeed in his profession. As a result of that, he was able to participate in instruction of students, and he gave generously through his philanthropy,” Sharon says. “The expansion of the study of the real estate development profession was very important to Jim. He, along with others, worked diligently for many years to establish a real estate education and co-curricular activities at UVA that included participation with multiple schools across Grounds. By establishing this professorship, I feel this is a fitting legacy to Jim for his dedication to and support of McIntire.”
Sharing His Expertise, Building a Program
George Overstreet, Walker Eminent Professor of Commerce, who initiated the first real estate course at the University in the mid-1980s, asserts that Todd’s contribution to the program was highly significant.
“I taught Corporate Finance with the Harvard Cases under Professor Larry Pettit’s guidance, which led to my desire to use the best possible cases for the Real Estate Investment and Finance case, which I had created at the University of Alabama,” Overstreet recalls, explaining that he became familiar with Todd because of his frequent engagement with the Commerce School, resulting in their collaboration.
“I was highly fortunate to work on the best case model for our real estate class—live cases featuring real estate developments under his guidance and creative supervision at the Peterson Companies. He not only came to class with all the juicy details, but never failed to follow up with students who sought out his professional advice and aid when seeking real estate-related jobs in the Washington, DC, area,” he says.
The real-world business knowledge Todd shared with students proved invaluable. Having had experience in residential, retail, office, industrial, recreational, and mixed-use communities throughout North America, Todd was President of the aforementioned Peterson Companies, one of the largest private development companies in the nation’s capital. In addition to being a life trustee of the U.S. Urban Land Institute, a president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, and former board member of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, Todd served as Managing Partner of private investment partnership TFP Investments, Gulf Reston, and Mobil Land Development. He also later served as President of JWT Inc. in consulting and advisory services for the strategic planning of real estate assets.
Despite all of his many responsibilities and commitments, Todd made plenty of time for the real estate class at McIntire with Overstreet.
“During the mid-90s, he attended every real estate class—we met for 2.5 hours on a single day—for an entire semester. Thus, he was the inspiration for our real estate pedagogy, which has been committed to having outstanding practitioners present live case material in all of our subsequent Real Estate Minor classes,” Overstreet says, pointing out that students were honor bound not to share information outside of class related to the candid and enlightening discussions revealing insightful industry information. “Jim was also inspirational regarding the importance of a strict ethical conduct within this context as a major foundation block for success: Being a person of impeccable character was essential to one’s career and their educational and professional experience. He was certainly critical to our real estate educational program and its early success but also to me personally,” he says.
Supporting Important Development
McIntire Professor and Dean Emeritus Carl Zeithaml recollects his first interaction with Todd during a conference call in 1998, when the School chose to focus on growing its courses in real estate.
“At the time, McIntire offered only one real estate course, but we recognized that an expanded real estate program had great potential, given the interest of our students and the many successful alumni who worked in this industry. I began reaching out to these alumni, and Jim was one of the first I called,” Zeithaml says. “I remember the call vividly, and it was really a preview for me of many of Jim’s qualities.”
He says that in addition to being a “total gentleman” who listened carefully to Zeithaml’s pitch and then asked several insightful questions, Todd exhibited another of his enduring traits, straightforward honesty. “He said, ‘UVA really has not cared much about real estate education for many years, so why should I believe that you are actually going to do anything meaningful?’ After a moment of thought, I responded, ‘Because we are going to do it together, and you and our other McIntire alumni will hold the School accountable.’”
Zeithaml says that from that moment forward, Todd was a tireless partner with McIntire faculty and other alumni working in real estate, helping to connect the School with other successful people in the industry, supporting the expansion of the courses being taught, and later, teaching a course in what was to become McIntire’s Real Estate Track.
He says that Todd would also become a champion for the Commerce School’s other programs, including its graduate programs, serve as a mentor to many students, and in recent years, help to develop the pan-University minor in real estate. “He understood the interdisciplinary nature of a strong real estate program. It was a collective dream of Jim and many people.”
Zeithaml says that Todd understood that the School needed increased support to attract and retain world-class scholars and teachers: “As a result, it is so appropriate that this professorship is established in Jim’s name, and I join the rest of the McIntire community in thanking Sharon and the Todd family for making it happen. We are so honored by our association through this professorship with Jim and the Todds.”
Center for Real Estate and the Built Environment Director and McIntire Professor of Real Estate Drew Sanderford echoes the sentiment. “This gift is yet one more incredible way the Todd family has supported Real Estate at UVA. Jim Todd gave so generously of his time and talent,” he says. “What a privilege to see his legacy live in a chair that will promote excellence in teaching, research, and service in a space he cared so deeply for.”