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Dave Hartzell: Building a real estate program

Dave Hartzell - UNC Kenan-FlaglerAt the heart of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s one-of-a-kind real estate program you’ll find Dave Hartzell.

Hartzell has played a vital role in growing the program as a teacher, academic innovator and researcher.

Hartzell is the Steven D. Bell and Leonard W. Wood Distinguished Professor in Real Estate and director of the Leonard W. Wood Center for Real Estate Studies. He’s also a member of the team that founded the only student-managed real estate private equity fund in the world – under the umbrella of the Kenan-Flagler Business School Foundation (KFBSF) – and serves as its faculty advisor and a board member.

He teaches the related applied investment management course, the real estate process elective and Global Immersion Electives, most recently to Brazil and Chile. “Through the years, I think I’ve pretty much taught every course offered in the real estate concentration,” he says.

The real estate program has been a part of the Business School since 1976, and Hartzell has been instrumental in building the most comprehensive real estate curriculum in the U.S., says Jim Spaeth, executive director of the Wood Center. “He put the Wood Center in place to support our students, faculty and alumni and he’s taken the program to a whole new level – one unmatched anywhere else.”

Dave Hartzell - UNC Kenan-FlaglerHartzell has assisted students in reaching career and personal goals even beyond graduation, brought real-world examples into the classroom thanks to his extensive industry contacts and experience, and created a real estate community on campus.

“Dave loves his students and has worked tirelessly to create world-class real estate education through his dedication and innovation,” says Leonard Wood (MBA ’72), founder of Wood Partners, LLC of Atlanta. “The UNC Real Estate Development Challenge, the annual Real Estate Conference and student-managed real estate funds set the bar for other educators.”

Hartzell and UNC go way back. He started in the PhD program in finance in 1981. After he graduated in 1985, he focused on institutional real estate finance and investments as a vice president at Salomon Brothers Inc. in New York. His group was the first to bring commercial mortgage backed securities to market.

He also worked as a research associate for The Urban Institute and a financial economist for the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of Currency.

Hartzell returned to UNC Kenan-Flagler as a professor in 1988, and hasn’t looked back. Academia afforded him the chance to spend time with his wife Randee and their now-grown children, Jamie and David, who got to know many of his students over the years and consider themselves part of the greater UNC real estate family.

Dave Hartzell - UNC Kenan-FlaglerHe has developed lifelong relationships with countless MBA students – starting when he first joined the faculty, through his time as associate dean for MBA Programs, with responsibility for the full-time MBA Program and all Executive MBA Programs from 1994-98, and continuing today.

“Dave’s commitment to our students – in and out of the classroom – exemplifies the value that our faculty bring to the School every day,” says Jennifer Conrad, senior associate dean for academic affairs and Dalton McMichael Distinguished Professor of Finance.

Those relationships translate into a remarkable alumni network, says Doug Shackelford, dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “Dave has built an amazingly close-knit community of real estate alumni who connect our real estate students with the leading professionals in the industry around the world.”

Hartzell is energized by his students. “I like being around the ‘kids,’ my students,” he says. “The people with whom I spend the most time never age. They’re always between about 25 and 32. I’m the only one that keeps getting older!”

If the fountain of youth doesn’t hold enough appeal, there is also research. Hartzell once dreamed of being a researcher at the Federal Reserve Board. Having authored more than 30 peer-reviewed articles in academic real estate journals, his current interests are the performance of real estate private equity funds and issues related to the capital structure of real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Dave Hartzell - UNC Kenan-FlaglerAs part of a small group of researchers with access to data on private equity funds, Hartzell is examining real estate funds. The first paper using this database focuses on the relative performance of value-add and opportunistic funds. It will be published soon in a top real estate journal, as will a paper about the use of “at-the-market” stock issuance by REITs co-written with Villanova University colleagues.

With a foot still firmly planted in industry, Hartzell serves on the board of directors of Highwoods Properties, where he sits on the investment and audit committees. He is also on the investment advisory committee for the North Carolina Retirement System, headed by the Treasurer of the State of North Carolina, and has served as a consultant for numerous companies, including Heitman Capital Management in Chicago, with which he had a long affiliation.

Hartzell’s impact reaches beyond the United States. He spends most summers at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School teaching a popular elective in real estate finance and investments. He is revising the textbook “Global Property Investment: Strategies, Structures and Decisions” he wrote with Cambridge colleague and friend Andrew Baum, but he’ll play hooky from school in England during the summer of 2015.

“I wanted to take a break,” he says. “I hope to spend a lot of time at the beach with my wife and work on my research and the book.”

Dave Hartzell - UNC Kenan-FlaglerMore than a quant jock, Hartzell is a jock-jock. He played Division I soccer in college and coached youth soccer for his kids. He was voted as the “Boys Coach of the Year” in the state of North Carolina in 2000.

He is also a musician who plays mandolin in a faculty-student bluegrass band. The “Good Ol’ Boys” perform weekly at a Chapel Hill bar, as well as at UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni events and local fundraisers for non-profit organizations.

Standing on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, Hartzell drinks in the evolution of the University, Business School and real estate industry, drawing connections to their transformations and what he and his colleagues teach.

“While the buildings here are generally the same as when I started school in 1981, much has changed,” says Hartzell. “We are graduating students who have a good feel for how to make that change happen.”