Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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A view of Hardy Tower. A view of Hardy Tower.

Lifetime Loyalty

Fred Pierce's 30-year commitment to SDSU has never flagged.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

This story appears in the summer 2015 issue of 360: The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

A neat row of miniature football helmets from 13 Division I teams greets visitors to Fred Pierce’s office. The replicas are from each campus where his company, Pierce Education Properties, owns student housing.

You might think Pierce has serious loyalty issues on game days every fall. Not so fast. In fact, one university takes priority where his allegiance is concerned — his alma mater, San Diego State University.

Since Pierce left SDSU in 1988 with degrees in finance and real estate, his commitment to the university never flagged. He has served on the boards of the SDSU Alumni Association, the Aztec Club, the College of Business Administration and the Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate.

His work for the California State University (CSU) Alumni Council and the Year of the Alumni initiative led to a seat on the CSU Board of Trustees from 1999 to 2004.

“I didn’t get involved for personal benefit,” Pierce said, “but the people I met through this volunteer work have become friends and business associates and have had a major impact on my life.”

Pierce strives to have a similar impact on the lives of Aztecs whose careers are just taking off and those who dream of graduating from SDSU in decades to come. He and his wife, Christine, are leaving a $2.5-million legacy gift to benefit the College of Business Administration, Aztec Athletics, the SDSU Alumni Association, Greek Life and student scholarships.

In addition, the Pierces have made a five-year cash pledge to provide current funding for the areas that will become endowed when their planned gift is realized. 
“We want our gift to demonstrate the diverse ways of giving to SDSU,” Pierce said. “We’re creating several alumni scholarships to underscore the value of this university’s alumni and volunteerism. We’re supporting Greek life with scholarships for fraternity and sorority members who don’t qualify for federal grants, but whose families can’t afford to finance their education. We’re giving to entrepreneurship, finance and real estate scholarships, and we’re supporting athletics because it’s a gateway to a continuing relationship between SDSU and its alumni.”

Not surprising that Pierce’s Aztec enthusiasm rubbed off on his daughter, Peyton, who graduated from SDSU this year with a degree in theatre. Younger daughter, Riley, is a future Aztec, Pierce said.

A 1999 recipient of SDSU’s Monty Award for Outstanding Alumni, Pierce takes pride in his role in the redevelopment of the campus. He founded his company 20 years ago when he won a contract from the SDSU Foundation to serve as master developer of the SDSU Redevelopment Project, including the construction of Fraternity Row and the student residence Piedra del Sol.

“The period from the mid-‘90s to about 2005 was physically transformational for this university,” Pierce recalled. “After our heavy lifting, many private companies have now come in and continued the redevelopment of the area, but we got it all started.”

Today, Pierce Education Properties acquires and manages existing, purpose-built student housing across the United States. The company ranks among the top 25 private owners of student housing in the country and is also among the top 10 buyers in the country since 2007. Pierce said he expects to grow the business to $1 billion in assets over the next five years.

Leasing and managing the properties falls to Pierce’s staff of more than 200, about half of them students. They reflect the demographics of each individual community and their job is to get to know the residents. Pierce says working with students “invigorates” him and owning a business associated with universities keeps him feeling perpetually young.