Prominent Fox alumnus returns to campus to share industry knowledge

By Michala Butler

Oct. 12, 2022

For alumnus Jerry Zivan, BBA ’66, and magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, returning to Temple’s campus for the first time in years brought back a great sense of nostalgia.  

The Temple Real Estate Organization (TREO) hosted Zivan on Sept. 21 to share more about his time at Temple and how he has found great success as a consultant at Chesser and Barr, as well as chief executive officer of Bluewater Bay Development Company.  

TREO invites guest speakers on Wednesdays throughout the fall semester to speak to members of the student professional organization (SPO). These conversations give students the opportunity to learn more about the industry and network with professionals who currently work in the field. With over 30 people in attendance, Zivan shared his experiences as a student at the Fox School, his time at Harvard Law School and his career journey.  

Sam Ridilla, president of TREO, emphasized the importance of inviting Fox School alumni to speak at TREO meetings to inspire current students.  

“Most of the alumni that come to speak to us are recent graduates, so Jerry gave us a completely different perspective as someone who has nearly completed his career,” says Ridilla. “It was refreshing to hear someone as successful as he shared the different paths of his career, beyond his initial plans right out of college.” 

Through working in different lines of business, Zivan was able to share his expertise in the areas of real estate development, management, financial consulting and law.  

Looking back on his days at Temple, Zivan stressed that students should have a perspective that allows them to see a broader path, rather than just one straight line for their futures.   

“You have to have some intentionality about what you are going to do with your career, but you also must be prepared to hit some bumps in the road along the way,” says Zivan. “The Fox School curriculum will prepare you with a base of knowledge and an understanding of problem-solving that you can then meld into a career path.” 

A key reminder Zivan tells students when entering the work field is that in today’s job environment, no job is too small. There is a reason to be in that position and you must be prepared to start at any level. 

“You can’t learn all the skills to be a successful real estate developer in undergrad or even graduate school. Student professional organizations (SPO’s) give students insight and internships provide invaluable experiences that help develop those skills,” says Zivan. “There is a process to move up in the real estate industry, and you must become an expert in different areas before doing so.” 

He also mentions the importance of gaining experience in a specific business area and doing it well.  

“The concept of being a Jack or Jill of all trades, is not always obtainable,” says Zivan. “You can sometimes learn more as a leasing agent, directly interacting with people, than working as a marketing agent in a large organization.” 

As a local Philadelphian and graduate of Central High School, Temple was right in Zivan’s backyard, making it an easy choice when he was deciding where to go to college. 

“Once I started my journey at Temple, the school of business appealed most to me because, it didn’t have a gym requirement, language requirement or a swim test to graduate like the school of liberal arts did at the time,” says Zivan. “I was inspired by my brother-in-law, who was an accountant, to earn my degree in accounting because I knew it would set me up for a steady career path.” 

From the moment Zivan stepped onto campus, he highlighted the great amount of progress the university has made over the last decade. 

“It was interesting to hear how much alumni think that Temple’s campus architecture and development has changed over the years, especially from a real estate professional,” says Ridilla. “This perspective shows the positive direction that the university is going in.” 

As Zivan reflects on his time as an Owl and anticipates the experience of future students preparing to enter the workforce, he is reminded of Temple University founder Russel Conwell’s mission: to provide an excellent education, but also ensure students are taught beneficial skills to ensure they will prosper in their careers.