North Texas real estate icon Herb Weitzman and his wife, Donna, say mentorships, an entrepreneurial mindset and a customer-centric focus are the keys to building a successful real estate career. Their $3 million gift to the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas will help ensure that real estate students will learn those lessons and put them into action in their careers.
The Weitzmans’ gift, which will establish the Herbert D. Weitzman Institute for Real Estate at the Jindal School, was disclosed at the Jindal School’s 2018 Scholarship Breakfast Nov. 6.
Dr. Hasan Pirkul, Caruth Chair and dean of the Jindal School, announced the news during the breakfast, the school’s annual major fundraiser, to a record-setting audience of more than 500 guests.
Herb Weitzman is founder and executive chairman of Weitzman, which operates full-service corporate real estate offices in all of the major Texas markets, including Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. Donna Weitzman, an entrepreneur, dating expert, author and podcaster, also has had an accomplished real estate career. She formerly served as City of Colleyville, Texas, mayor and city council member.
Recent Jindal School graduate Giovanny Martinez opened the breakfast program. Martinez, who earned a BS in Finance degree with a real estate concentration last May, is now an associate at Koa Partners. After introducing several UT Dallas officials, including President Richard C. Benson, Martinez turned the podium over to Pirkul.
“You made a difference, Herb and Donna,” Pirkul said in his remarks. “You have ensured that real estate will continue to play a critical leading role in our school and in our university, and we will continue to produce graduates and provide education in such an important field. … Real estate and Jindal School are going to be synonymous as we go forward.”
The Weitzman Institute will provide scholarships for eligible undergraduate finance and business administration students pursuing a concentration in real estate, in keeping with the Jindal School’s tradition of taking a leadership role nationally in providing financial aid to students.
“The [Jindal School] is one of the best in the country,” Donna Weitzman said. “So why wouldn’t we want to be associated with winners? That’s the way we looked at it.”
Since its inception, the breakfast has raised more than $700,000 for scholarships. The Weitzmans regaled the audience with answers to questions from moderator Roger Staubach — legendary former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and real estate icon in his own right —about their lives and careers.
“If somebody has the passion and gets a good mentor … the sky’s the limit,” Herb Weitzman told the audience.
He expressed gratitude for being able to build a career in Dallas, and build and maintain professional relationships with the visionaries who helped build the city. His and Donna’s vision for the institute, he said, was a “phenomenal opportunity” to help show real estate students and graduates how to continue building “the greatest city in the country.”
The task of educating real estate students falls to Dr. Randall S. Guttery, director of Jindal School real estate curriculums. For Guttery, the Weitzmans’ gift has special significance. He has been a friend and advisor to Herb Weitzman for years.
“Herb told me he wants this to be a legacy gift,” Guttery said. “He wants to help the next generation and generations to come. His and Donna’s generosity will help ensure that will happen in perpetuity.”
Weitzman said real estate can offer much to those who make a career of it and that his vision for the institute is helping students attain such a goal.
“[Donna and I] hope that more and more people want to get into real estate as their vocation and then eventually open their own companies to be entrepreneurial.”
In 1961, leading Dallas real estate exemplar Henry S. Miller began mentoring Weitzman. Miller helped him launch his real estate career and groomed him for business ownership.
Earlier, Weitzman’s father had planted the idea in 4-year-old Herb’s mind of pursuing real estate as a career when he would walk the neighborhood with his son to collect rent from tenants every month. Weitzman’s mother, who operated the dry-goods store she owned with her husband, taught him about entrepreneurship and running a customer-focused business when he helped her in the shop on Saturdays.
“I learned how to take care of the customer,” he said. “I think [a focus on customers] helped me grow and I think that’s what helped Henry Miller grow.”
Before the breakfast, Weitzman said his goal in establishing the institute was to enable students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to consider real estate as a career option and to offer them the academic support and tools they need.
“A program that trains our future leaders offers the potential of reshaping the North Texas community in a positive way for decades to come,” he said. “I’m honored to be able to contribute to that promise.”
— Jimmie R. Markham