search button
newscenter logo
Friday, March 24, 2023

Follow SDSU Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook SDSU RSS Feed

Black teamed up with friends, including a few fraternity brothers from Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Black teamed up with friends, including a few fraternity brothers from Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

Building Excellence, Brick by Brick

A gift from Steven Black, '77, will help grow the real estate program in the College of Business Administration.

This story is featured in the summer 2014 issue of 360:The Magazine of San Diego State University. 

Though he has won far more prestigious honors in his 30-year career, Steven Black still relishes the memory of an award he received as a student in the College of Business Administration.

Black, ’77, was enrolled in a class taught by Jim Belasco. At the end of each semester, the management professor would invite students to his home for a competition testing their business acumen. Divided into groups of four or five, they wrestled with problems requiring critical thinking and the application of business skills.

Black teamed up with friends, including a few fraternity brothers from Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

“No one gave us much of a chance of winning,” he recalled, “but as the afternoon wore on, we kept making our best decisions and ultimately, we prevailed. Of course, we went out and celebrated.”

The power of teamwork is not the only lesson Black learned at San Diego State. Accounting 1A revealed a new “language of numbers and concepts” that made perfect sense to the young business student, setting him up to become an accounting major, a CPA and eventually, a successful real estate developer and investor.

His recent gift of $1 million creates an endowment to provide academic scholarships for undergraduates majoring in real estate at SDSU so they can forge their own paths to success.

Enrollment in the major is growing, supported by the Corky McMillin Center for Real Estate, which brings industry leaders to campus for lectures and workshops and offers supplemental training in current software and database programs.

Mark McMillin
, ’79, president and CEO of the Corky McMillin Companies, is chair of the McMillin Center’s advisory board, whose 17 members are among its most generous supporters.

McMillin played a key role in the $1.5-million gift from his family that established the center in 2009. He believes the hands-on experience built into SDSU’s curriculum distinguishes Aztecs from other real estate graduates.

The McMillin Center’s unique Day 1 program offers monthly Saturday workshops in the offices of real estate professionals, where students learn specific skills that supplement their academic portfolios, such as residential site planning, valuation and commercial property management.

Students would do well to look at the careers of both McMillin and Black as a model for success. He has been involved in the development of more than 20 million square feet of commercial and residential projects.

That’s equivalent to about 23 Petco Parks and includes the Cisco Systems European headquarters in Amsterdam and a new high-rise corporate headquarters for Sempra Energy in downtown San Diego.

Black is currently the managing member of Cisterra Partners LLC, which was named Developer of the Year in 2007 by Ernst and Young.

The collaborative nature of the work is Black’s ultimate satisfaction. His advice to SDSU students: Take risks, learn from your mistakes, be engaged, build relationships, find a mentor and always move forward with optimism and confidence.