On Thursday, Rod Stewart’s peers will recognize him with the highest compliment a commercial real estate professional can receive locally: the Wichita State University Center for Real Estate and Kansas chapter of Certified Commercial Investment Members’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award will be presented at a luncheon at WSU’s Marcus Welcome Center.
Even though Stewart hasn’t been the developer behind a big new building or landmark project in the area, as some past award recipients have been, friends and colleagues say his influence in the industry and to the community has been significant and noteworthy over four decades.
Stewart, 68, has been a mentor and teacher to rookie agents and brokers and a trusted adviser to peers and clients, they said. And along the way, he’s advanced the commercial real estate profession locally and regionally, they said.
“He’s a servant leader,” said Carl Hebert of InSite Real Estate Group and the 2013 president of Kansas CCIM. “He gets in the trenches. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
Stewart was philosophical about receiving the award, saying it is “the answer to the question ‘Did you spend your life well?’”
“It’s a wonderful honor,” Stewart added.
Stewart first and foremost is known in the industry for his ability to handle difficult and complex real estate transactions. In 1997, the national Society of Exchange Counselors awarded Stewart the Most Creative Transaction award.
“He can see how to put a complicated transaction together where I just see muddy waters,” said Tony Utter, broker and co-owner of Utter Commercial Real Estate, who’s known Stewart for 30 years.
That skill of putting together a complex transaction is something Stewart is willing to teach other agents and brokers, said Leo Goseland, a commercial real estate broker and past president of the SEC.
“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Goseland said. “Still do.”
Hebert said Stewart’s desire to help people learn the business remains. He said he was involved in a commercial real estate transaction with an inexperienced agent. When Hebert asked the agent if he needed his help in completing the deal, the agent told him that wasn’t necessary because Stewart was already helping him — and Stewart declined to receive any part of the rookie agent’s commission, Hebert said.
“I thought it spoke to Rod’s character and willingness to share his expertise with others,” Hebert said. “It’s an example of Rod putting his own financial gain aside to help someone.”
Goseland said Stewart was almost solely responsible for bringing semi-annual Society of Exchange Counselors marketing meetings to Wichita, where in addition to education sessions, SEC members from across the country come to market and exchange millions of dollars of commercial and investment properties.
Goseland was also a partner with Stewart in the powerful but short-lived commercial real estate firm Snyder Sheets Stewart & Goseland, which between 1992 and 1998 was one of the city’s top-five commercial real estate firms in terms of number and size of deals.
“Till 1998 they made a real impact on commercial real estate transactions, brokering some of the more significant commercial and complex transactions,” Utter said.
The partners dissolved the firm amicably, Goseland and Stewart said.
“You just can’t keep all those eagles in the same nest for very long,” said Stewart of his departure from the firm.
What Stewart doesn’t get a lot of recognition for nowadays is his past community involvement, Utter said. During the 1970s and 1980s, Stewart served in a number of civic leadership roles, including chairman of what is now Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau, chairman of the former Urban Renewal Agency and chairman of the former Economic Development Commission.
“He was in a position to influence public policy,” Utter said. “I can’t think of another commercial real estate person … who had that kind of involvement.”
Past recipients of the award include Dave Burk, Colby Sandlian, Jack Hunt, George Ablah, Jack DeBoer, Nestor and Michael Weigand, Stephen Clark and Herb Krumsick.