Real Estate

Building for the Future: Real Estate Foundation Aims to Make Real Property Gifts a Primary Part of Fundraising

Bruce Boehrer is the current holder of the Frances Cushing Ervin Professorship within the Department of English.

Like many Florida State College for Women alumnae of the World War II generation, 1941 graduate Frances Cushing Ervin’s greatest legacy may well be her family and their accomplishments, from her husband on down to her grandchildren.

In honor of the love and devotion of their every day hero, their wife and mother, the Ervin family chose to make a gift in her name—and for a cause they knew she would appreciate.

After Frances’ death on Jan. 9, 2007, her husband and children determined that an appropriate way to honor her memory was with a gift reflecting her interests, and thus decided to create a professorship in her name: The Frances Cushing Professorship in the Department of English.

Pleased with the initial gift facilitated by daughter Anne Ervin Rowe, retired dean of the faculties and deputy provost at Florida State University, and son Robert M. Ervin Jr., Bob Ervin Sr. made the decision to make an additional gift to the fund—that of the couple’s Tallahassee home.

This type of gift, formally referred to as a retained life estate, allows the donor to make a significant gift to Florida State University—in this case $485,000. The donor may continue living in his or her home throughout his or her lifetime while benefiting from an income tax deduction in the year the gift was made. If at any time the donor decides to relinquish the life estate, he or she may do so. Otherwise, the property is given over to the university after the donor’s lifetime.

This real property gift is one of the first of many that the newly established Florida State University Real Estate Foundation will use to impact the university’s programs and colleges.

The Real Estate Foundation exists primarily to receive contributions of real estate to hold, manage, lease, mortgage, develop, administer or sell in order to contribute or distribute all or a portion of the net proceeds from such activity to Florida State University and the Florida State University Foundation. The fledgling direct service organization held its first board of directors meeting on Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Tallahassee.

With its creation in advance of the university’s upcoming capital campaign, the Real Estate Foundation will provide growth opportunities for the university to invest and develop potential property under the guidance of a board of directors with backgrounds in professional real estate development, accounting and management. The Real Estate Foundation board is composed of seven directors from across the state of Florida, six of whom are graduates of Florida State University: Chair Beth Azor, Davie, Fla.; Vice chair Brian Swain, Winter Haven, Fla.; Robert Breslau, Davie, Fla.; Edward Burr, Jacksonville Beach, Fla.; Tom Jennings, Tallahassee, Fla.; Leslie McKeon, St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Stephen Pattison, Plantation, Fla.

“We have put together a fabulous team to lead the Real Estate Foundation,” board of directors chair Beth Azor said. “It was important for us to have many direct service organizations represented, and we also asked for recommendations based on geographic representation.”

Diversity in the real estate industry was another important factor in selecting board members.

“We may get a gift presentation or a donor who asks us to be involved in residential, office, retail or industrial deals, and it’s important for our experience to be balanced,” Azor said. “It’s clear that our group brings different talents and strengths to the table.”

When Azor joined the Florida State University Foundation Board of Trustees in 2005, her natural connection to real estate led her to investigate the university’s involvement with the industry.

“On the Foundation board, I found alumni and friends asking if we were interested in taking gifts of real estate. The Foundation does an excellent job at comparing peer institutions, so in conducting surveys and speaking with our peers, we found that other universities were doing much more with real estate. They were engaging and proactively encouraging alumni and friends to bring gifts of real estate to the institutions’ attention.”

Since then, Azor, her colleagues on the board and university and Foundation staff have worked tirelessly to establish the Real Estate Foundation and promote it within the Florida State community and among real estate professionals state- and nationwide.

The College of Business’ annual Real Estate Trends & Networking Conference in October allowed the board of directors to introduce the Real Estate Foundation to about 600 Florida State alumni and friends in the real estate industry; share the Real Estate Foundation’s mission; and explain strategies professionals can use to connect their clients with Florida State University.

Additionally, Azor said, through the Foundation and through connections and industry affiliations, the Real Estate Foundation will be able to engage industry groups and those with real estate holdings in learning how they can help the Real Estate Foundation achieve its goals.

Foundation Chief Financial Officer and Real Estate Foundation Treasurer Jerry Ganz added, “Eventually, we hope gifts to the Real Estate Foundation will not just take the form of the typical pass-through property that is sold with the proceeds being provided to a specific college or unit. We hope to obtain some income-producing properties that can be retained by the Real Estate Foundation and managed for the continued success of the university. We want to have the opportunity to look at all options available that might positively impact the students and programs of Florida State University.”

The creation of the Real Estate Foundation, coupled with its proven leadership, is yet another way Florida State is striving to becoming a university of unparalleled growth and success.

“The Real Estate Foundation has the potential to help grow our university through alumni and friends’ gifts of real estate and to assist the university in that growth by utilizing real estate principles at the right time and place,” Azor said. “The Real Estate Foundation will counterbalance the negative impact of the current economic climate and assist in accomplishing fundraising goals that Florida State has wanted to achieve for many years.”

The Florida State University Real Estate Foundation is registered as a separate corporation in the state of Florida that has been approved as a direct support organization of the university. The IRS has determined that the corporation qualifies as a tax-exempt public charity, and contributions to the Real Estate Foundation are deductible under section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.

To learn more about making a gift of real estate to Florida State University, please visit the Real Estate Foundation website or contact Jerry Ganz, chief financial officer, at (850) 644-0766 or