Jay Westman donation creates Centre for Real Estate Studies at the University of Calgary

CALGARY - Calgary home builder and developer Jay Westman has donated $5 million to the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business to create the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies.

The centre will educate business leaders for the real estate industry by offering academic and research programs as well as serving as an industry resource through its community outreach activities.

“This gift supports the University of Calgary’s Eyes High vision and we thank Jay Westman for his friendship and generosity,” said Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary. “This centre will promote leadership development and fill a need in our community by training future leaders in the real estate industry.”

Students will benefit from case studies and course work specific to various aspects of the real estate industry including building, public policy, finance, development and marketing; faculty will undertake industry-specific, market and economic research; and the business school will create a platform for community dialogue embracing academic, practitioner and government views of importance to the industry.

“The real estate and development industry has had a strong hand in shaping this community and in building Calgary’s reputation as one of Canada’s most entrepreneurial cities,” said Westman, chairman and chief executive of Jayman MasterBUILT, a company he co-founded with his late father in 1979, that operates in both Calgary and Edmonton. “The industry has really come of age here. I am committed to its ongoing strength through the development of responsible business leaders, and I believe the Haskayne School of Business is the place to make that happen.”

Over the past 33 years, the company has built more than 21,000 single and multi-family homes and diversified its business to include financial, design and development divisions.

Westman said the real estate industry is the “backbone of our economy” and this investment represents the pinnacle for him. He said the real estate industry is about innovation, creativity and understanding the needs and wants of people.

He said the real estate industry is a $114 billion a year industry in Canada and about a trillion dollars in North America. Residential real estate alone accounts for $15 billion in Alberta.

“The industry really deserves this focus. It is a very large industry,” he said.

“Real estate has gotten very sophisticated. It’s a sophisticated business . . . In terms of in-migration and job creation, Calgary and Alberta is definitely one of the best places in North America here for housing and land development that’s for sure and that’s only because what’s happening in the energy sector.”

Jim Dewald, the Dean of Haskayne, said the school’s vision is that the Westman Centre for Real Estate Studies will support educational programming, academic research and community integration with a goal of becoming the best in class business school in Canada for real estate education.

“This transformational gift will help take us there,” he said.

Dewald said the real estate industry has been buoyed in Calgary in recent years by employment growth as the province’s energy sector has done well and brought many people here.

“The numbers are very solid and it’s a great employer,” said Dewald of the real estate sector. “Alberta is largely energy, real estate, and agriculture and tourism. Those are sort of the four big pillars of our economy.”

With seed funding from industry, Haskayne began offering real estate elective courses to students in both the Bachelor of Commerce and MBA programs in 2012, and expanded those programs in 2013.

Westman’s donation supports the school’s aim to offer a full, undergraduate concentration in real estate and an MBA specialization in the next two years.

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