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The WREAA was founded in the fall of 1976 by Dr. James Graaskamp, Don Evans (MS '64) and Jim Curtis (MS '76.) Don Evans is one of the “Magnificent Seven” who were the first masteJim Graaskamprs students to graduate under Graaskamp in 1964. Jim Curtis continues to be an ardent supporter of the WREAA and the program.


WREAA serves as a vital link between the University, students, the real estate market and UW real estate alumni. In addition to providing an effective networking forum, WREAA serves as an important fundraising arm of the Department of Real Estate and Urban Land Economics. Governed by a Board of Directors, WREAA has a three-part mission:
  • To support the University of Wisconsin-Madison real estate program in order to preserve and promote its image and standing within the academic and business communities, and enhance career and business opportunities of its graduates.
  • To provide a forum in which members and affiliates can network and interact for business, social, employment and educational opportunities and activities.
  • To preserve, promote and support the philosophy of the Wisconsin Tradition in real estate education.

With these objectives in sight some of the initial goals included:

  • Establishing a newsletter
  • Developing a printed membership directory
  • Sponsoring a biennial seminar
  • Building an association structure
  • Providing financial assistance to the program
  • Performing a public relations function

Based on these goals, a Board of Directors was established and the country was divided into seven regions (today extended to ten nationwide).


In time, the newsletter, directory and first reunion followed. Steve Elpern became the first President of the association and was followed by Roger Juszczak and Diane Orbison. The founders, officers, and directors are to be commended for their foresight and support in establishing and guiding the association through the early years. In the spring of 1988 the program and the association changed dramatically with the passing of the “Chief.” It was time for contemplation and reorganization. The Real Estate Department was reorganized in 1989 under the direction of the new Chairman, Kerry Vandell. It was time for WREAA to reassess as well.


Reorganization of the WREAA, Inc.

The basic operation, structure and goals of the association had been stable from 1976 to 1988. The combination of good leadership by the officers along with strong direction from Professor Graaskamp kept the organization operating smoothly. In 1988 key supporters of the association conferred and realized that the association and its environment had changed significantly. Not only was Professor Graaskamp gone but the alumni exceeded 1000. An increasingly sophisticated industry and growing membership required a more organized and professional association. These supporters designed a second-generation organization, which was solidly based on the founding goals.


In the fall of 1989 Jim Smith became president of the association and one of his first objectives was to restructure the organization to provide for the succession of officers and share in the administrative activities of the association. The association was officially incorporated as the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association. A fifteen member Board was established. Semi-annual mandatory board meetings were established. During the early 90s, the WREAA hired a permanent Director to administer WREAA affairs and concluded the ambitious Graaskamp Fund Campaign, providing a $1.2 million fund for the permanently endowed Graaskamp Chair.


Coming of Age

Prompted by a dramatic increase in active membership, the accomplishments of the recently concluded Graaskamp Fund campaign, a highly successful 1993 Wisconsin Real Estate Conference, and the formation of the Center for Urban Land Economics Research, (known today as the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate), the WREAA Board once again stepped back to reassess its role and mission. Various refinements in terminology and definition have been adopted to reflect WREAA's evolution from the original “advocates group” to a broad-based professional affiliation.

Deal of the Year AwardSteady growth of the association's network and it's support of the Real Estate Department continued throughout the 90s with WREAA hosting its first Biennial Finance Conference in New York in 1996. By the end of the decade, WREAA had developed the Wisconsin Connection Fund, consisting of a permanently endowed fellowship fund and a departmental support fund. In 2002, WREAA refined it's regional infrastructure by appointing alumni to serve as Market Representatives in 30 major metropolitan markets thereby expanding its national network for student recruitment, graduate placement, fundraising and networking. 
In 2005 the WREAA launched the "Create the Future Real Estate Capital Campaign", designed to maintain and enhance UW Real Estate Program's 'best in class' status.  In 2006, the UW Real Estate Program celebrated the conclusion of the campaign with the announcement that more than 600 alumni and friends had contributed to the campaign, raising $11 million.  As a result of the successful campaign, in 2007, the UW Real Estate Center was renamed the UW Graaskamp Center for Real Estate in memory of the late Professor James Graaskamp.
The WREAA has never been stronger and will continue to grow in both scope and scale. Today the association advances three general goals:

Professional Development

  • Directory Publish an annual detailed professional directory of all members.
  • Newsletter Publish a semi-annual newsletter (Equity Kicker) to inform members of alumni and program activities.
  • Chapter Organization Expand chapter system to provide local interaction.
    Employment Data Base Maintain a system to interface members with available employment opportunities.
  • Wisconsin Biennial Real Estate Conference (Reunion) Sponsor and expand biennial alumni “reunion” concept into a   high profile conference.
  • Trends Conference Sponsor a biennial program to provide members with an additional networking opportunity as well as a focused, in depth program on current capital markets issues.
  • Public Relations Promote the association, the program, and research center to maximize exposure and recognition.
  • Hospitality Suites Sponsor hospitality rooms at industry conferences such as ULI, MBA, and ICSC to provide networking opportunities for WREAA members.
  • Website Provide a forum online, including a membership database, as a source of information and to facilitate networking among alumni and friends of the UW Real Estate Program.

Program Support

  • Financial Provide financial support at a department level for teaching, research, facilities, and curriculum enhancement.
  • Curriculum Act as a resource for guest speaker programs, applied learning coursework and curriculum evaluation.
  • Industry Assist in gaining recognition and financial grants from industry and trade associations.
  • Public Relations Support department within the University and governmental arena in addition to the industry. Promote program as the pre-eminent real estate program in the country.

Student Support

  • Scholarships Provide financial assistance to students.
  • Field Trips Assist in planning and hosting national field trips as a means to augment classroom activity.
  • Internships Provide summer internships to build “on the job” experience.
  • Employment Assist students in finding post graduate employment.
  • Real Estate Club Support the on-campus efforts of the student group.

The WREAA continues to make significant progress in meeting and expanding all of the above goals.

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