Cradling his note cards, Ira Lubert temporarily set aside his prepared remarks in order to speak from the heart.
A giant in Philadelphia’s private equity and real estate sectors, Lubert is admittedly a man of few words. And from the lectern at Mitten Hall, he chose those words carefully.
“I don’t like to be the center of attention,” Lubert said, “but I agreed to accept this honor for two reasons: Lew Katz and Pete Musser.”
Temple University’s Fox School of Business recognized Lubert as the recipient of the Musser Award for Excellence in Leadership, the highest honor conveyed by the School, during a Nov. 5 dinner and reception at Mitten Hall’s Great Court.
The Chairman and Co-founder of Lubert-Adler Real Estate, Lubert used his acceptance speech as an opportunity to praise both Warren V. “Pete” Musser, for whom the Fox School’s awards are named, and Lewis Katz, a former member of Temple’s Board of Trustees and the 2013 Musser Award recipient, who died in June in a plane crash.
Lubert acknowledged that his professional and personal successes came as a result of his connection to Musser, the former Chairman and CEO of Safeguard Scientifics, an investment group with ties to many Fortune 500 companies. Lubert first met Musser in the 1980s, and worked with him as a consultant with Safeguard, before becoming the top salesman at IBM and eventually starting his own ventures.
Then, Lubert shared memories of walking with Katz through Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia only a few days before Katz’s passing. Lubert said Katz, whom he referred to as “not only one of the greatest philanthropists in this region, but also a great guy,” had told Lubert he would be honored to introduce him as the 2014 Musser Award recipient.
“I got many, many business lessons from that great man,” Lubert said of Katz, for whom a moment of silence was observed following a brief video tribute from the previous year’s Musser reception.
The Musser Awards dinner and reception gathered Philadelphia’s leading business executives under one roof. Past top honorees in attendance included: Dennis Alter; William J. Avery; Richard J. Fox; Robert A. Fox; J. William Mills, III; Musser; Patrick J. O’Conner; and Daniel H. Polett.
The evening followed the motif of a diner, a favorite of Lubert’s. Two tables in the center of the dining room were lined on both sides by booth seating, and a neon sign reading, “Eat at Ira’s” dangled from above the main stage. Even the menu card, designed colorfully and playfully, resembled what a patron might find at a diner. CNBC anchor Tyler Mathisen, the event’s master of ceremonies, instructed guests to glance at the backside of the menu card for a listing of prominent national rankings attained by the Fox School – or as Mathisen put it, “some of the specials Fox has been cooking up in recent weeks.”
Temple University President Neil D. Theobald, who had the distinction of introducing a tribute video of Lubert, reflected upon Fox School’s prowess.
“Every day, there is a new appreciation for the quality of business education that takes place here,” Dr. Theobald said. “The growth that you’ve seen at Fox is an example of the evolution that has taken place throughout Temple. We have taken major steps to expand innovation and entrepreneurship across the university.”
The night belonged to Lubert, “a trailblazer, and a mover-and-shaker with a track record of significant success and creative deals,” said Fox School Dean M. Moshe Porat.
Surrounded by close friends, family and colleagues, Lubert and his reputation as a short-spoken man was a popular subject.
“He’s very efficient. A long meeting with Ira is about 30 seconds, because he can get everything done and say what he needs to say,” said David M. Joyner, a former member of the Board of Trustees at Pennsylvania State University, Lubert’s alma mater. “That’s probably a little tongue-in-cheek, but he can analyze any situation extremely quickly.”
“Ira’s biggest trait is that he comes into a negotiation and, by the time you’re done, you’re like, ‘What just happened?’” said David J. Adelman, a business associate of Lubert’s, and the President and CEO of Campus Apartments.
Upon receiving his crystal owl statue as the Musser Award honoree, Lubert closed his remarks by paying tribute to the university that paid tribute to him.
“I’m a Penn State guy through and through,” Lubert said, “but I admire what Fox has done for the university and this city. You attract to the city the best and brightest for the business community.”
A thriving business community that includes none other than Lubert, of course.