More than 500 real estate executives and professionals descended on Monmouth University Thursday night for an annual awards dinner that has become one of the industry's top events in New Jersey.
The dinner, hosted by the school's Kislak Real Estate Institute, honored Joseph S. Taylor, president and CEO of Matrix Development Group, and Ted Zangari, a Sills, Cummis & Gross real estate attorney who chairs the firm's redevelopment law and public policy practice groups.
Taylor's firm is "just the latest in a long list of great real estate companies that we have in New Jersey," said Peter Reinhart, director of the institute. He pointed to Taylor's decades of success in the industry and philanthropic efforts.
"We look for people who are titans in the industry, and he's just one of them," Reinhart said of Taylor, who received the Leadership Excellence Award. "The first recipient 19 years ago was Arthur Greenbaum, who's the dean of all of the real estate lawyers in the state."
Zangari was awarded the institute's first ever Service to the Industry Award, due in large part to his founding of the Smart Growth Economic Development Coalition in 2007, Reinhart said. The coalition, which includes many trade groups and businesses, has spearheaded an aggressive policy agenda that "helped the real estate industry survive the recession and is now turning the state around."
"I doubt that we'll give the award every year," Reinhart said. "It's just when someone rises up above, like he clearly has, we'll give the award."
Thursday's event drew a bustling crowd to the Woodrow Wilson Hall, the lavish and historic former mansion at the university's West Long Branch campus. Attendees and organizers say the appeal is due in large part to Monmouth's role as New Jersey's only university with an undergraduate and graduate real estate program.
"I don't think there's a university on the planet that gets this kind of turnout from the real estate industry," said SJP Properties CEO Steven J. Pozycki, a Monmouth alumnus, past honoree and member of Kislak's executive advisory council.
Mitchell Hersh, CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp., said the endeavor is "very worthy … because really the cause is to foster and promote education in the field of real estate." Hersh also is a past honoree and member of the advisory council.
The sentiment was echoed by Alfred J. Schiavetti Jr., chairman of Navesink Associates. Schiavetti, also a council member, said the turnout was "a symbolic and tangible manifestation of what we've done with real estate education" at the university.
Taylor said he was honored to receive the award "from one of the great collections of real estate minds in New Jersey." The event is near the level of NAIOP New Jersey's annual awards gala for commercial real estate, which drew some 700 attendees last month, he said.
"The event has grown every year," Taylor said. "It's one of the two major real estate events, and having some of the students here and hopefully bringing them into the industry is very exciting."