$11M gift will put real estate program in AAP, Hotel School

April 14, 2012

Cornell's Program in Real Estate is being restructured, thanks to an $11 million gift from Lisa and Richard Baker '88. The gift will more than triple the program's current $5 million endowment.

The renamed Baker Program in Real Estate will be housed in and governed by the two schools here most directly aligned with teaching, research and professional careers in the field of real estate — the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) and the School of Hotel Administration (SHA).

Since its founding in 1997, the program has reported to the provost's office rather than a particular school or college.

"It's already an excellent program, one of the top real estate professional programs in the country," said John Siliciano, senior vice provost of academic affairs. The new funding "allows it to move even further."

The new structure, he said, allows the Baker Program in Real Estate to train those seeking careers in the field of real estate. A two-year professional program beginning July 1, it will offer a master of professional studies (M.P.S.) and a dual M.P.S./M.B.A. degree.

"We thought that a commitment like this would bring greater focus, both at ... and outside of Cornell, on the opportunity to learn about real estate at Cornell," said Richard Baker, a member of the advisory boards of the Real Estate Program and Hotel School. "I think this is going to help elevate Cornell's program to be one of the premier real estate programs in the United States."

"Two colleges have joined forces to host a unique program that builds on AAP's renowned expertise in shaping our constructed environment and SHA's deep strength in real estate finance," said Kent Kleinman, AAP's dean. "Lisa and Richard Baker have made a transformative gift that will catapult real estate studies at Cornell to the very pinnacle of the field. The fact that these two events are happening simultaneously is remarkable."

The program will have physical space in both schools, which will collaborate to offer a comprehensive set of ancillary and career services.

Having the real estate program in both colleges "gives the students studying and learning about real estate the opportunity to take advantage of all the dynamic real estate exposure and opportunities that exist at the Hotel School [and] of the natural relationship that occurs between real estate and architecture," Baker said.

The Hotel School hosted Cornell's first real estate courses. Thanks to the Bakers, "we are now able to build upon SHA's historical expertise in real estate finance and asset management," said Michael Johnson, dean of SHA.

The Bakers' total gift is $12 million, including $1 million for the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

"We hope this gives more students the opportunity to have a career in the real estate industry," said Lisa Baker, noting that learning about the industry is difficult for those not already in a family business, such as the Baker family. "We do everything as a team, and we're really happy to be doing this," she said.

Richard and Lisa Baker are owners of the Hudson's Bay Company, which is the oldest continuously operated retail company in the world. Hudson's Bay Company operates Lord & Taylor, The Bay, Home Outfitters, and Top Shop Canada. The Bakers also are active contemporary art collectors and producers.

By Gary E. Frank, Cornell Chronicle

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