Shenehon Center for Real Estate
2012 Hall of Fame Inductees
The Shenehon Center at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business honors the following individuals for their significant contribution in real estate and leadership in their business.
David C. Bell has been called one of the last great civic leaders of Minneapolis. Born on a small farm in West Almond, New York, in 1841, Bell left for Minneapolis at the age of 17 to work for his brother, John Bell, as a clerk in his small general store. Able to communicate in English and German, Bell used his bilingual advantage to appeal to customers of the day. With clerking experience under his belt, he moved on to open the Bell Bros. Dry Goods store on the corner of Nicollet and Washington Avenues in 1862.
Later, Bell took on an admirable number of ventures starting with a stint as Hennepin County treasurer. In 1886, he co-founded the YMCA. He served as the first president and held that position five times. He also co-founded the American Automobile Association, the Minnesota Linseed Oil Company, several banks and ultimately a mortgage company under his name - David C. Bell Investment Company.
In 1880, Bell began originating mortgages in Minnesota and sold them to banks in New York. The first mortgage bond from the David C. Bell Investment Company was drawn up in 1888 for the sum of $3,500. The business Bell began not only employed numerous Minnesotans; it also brought a significant amount of money and development into the area. Perhaps that is he is referred to not only as an entrepreneur, but also one of the Twin Cities' founding fathers.
The David C. Bell Company continued to flourish, weathering The Great Depression and two world wars, and embracing nearly 100 years of local development before its purchase in 1980 by Gary Kirt.
Bell’s civic accolades rival those of his business accomplishments. In 1901 and 1902, he served as special agent of the United States Treasury Department and visited Europe in the interest of the Columbian Exposition. An advocate for education, he was a founding board member of the Minneapolis Athenaeum, served as trustee of Carleton College, and taught Bible classes at Plymouth Congregational Church. He also was a member of the state board of charities and corrections.
David Bell lived out his later years in California, but always regarded Minnesota as his home. He referred to Minneapolis as the “city of my love and young manhood, where in 1862, I brought my young bride and established a home.” David’s many contributions as business and civic leader helped shape Minneapolis into the city it is today.
Spanning more than 41 years, Robert Boblett’s many accomplishments contributed to the commercial real estate industry of the Twin Cities. A native of Minneapolis, Boblett graduated from the University of Minnesota. He served during World War II as a captain in the 103rd Infantry Division in Europe. After 26 years with the A.D. Strong Company, Boblett founded Robert Boblett Associates, Inc., an industrial real estate firm.
He held many titles, including president of the Society of Industrial Realtors (part of the National Association of Realtors), director of the National Association of Realtors, vice president and charter member of the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers, president and secretary general of the Counseling Section of the Federation International Des Professions Immobiliers, and a member of the board of governors of the America Society of Real Estate Counselors.
Boblett was a member of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission, president of the Minneapolis City Planning Commission and Minneapolis Charter Commission.
In addition to his involvement in a variety of professional associations, he helped write several real estate texts and served on the board of editors of the Minnesota Real Estate Law Journal. He helped develop a course in appraising for the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers. He taught both at the Institute and the University of Minnesota.
The Society of Industrial and Office Realtors® (SIOR) presents The Robert P. Boblett Award to one member annually in recognition and appreciation of his dedication, distinguished service and long standing commitment to the ideals and standards of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors and for his unselfish efforts to inspire others to reach their greatest potential in the real estate profession. The Robert P. Boblett Award is highest honor given by the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors.
Recognized for his strong work ethic, Boblett’s son Robert Boblett, Jr. noted, “My dad worked as hard as anyone I ever know, and he kept on working until the end. He never thought of it as work.” (Star Tribune)
Providing 51 years of dedicated involvement to the Minneapolis real estate community as well as national and international real estate organizations, Philip Smaby’s impact was felt by many. Never forgetting the importance of ethical business practices, he set a standard of integrity in his work.
Smaby was born in Rushford, Minn. After graduating from high school, he attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, then later transferred to the University of Minnesota, where he earned a bachelor's degree in business in 1941. While working for Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, Calif., he married Margaret Hagen, then joined the U.S. Navy in 1943, serving in San Francisco. After his release from the Navy in May 1946, the couple returned to Minneapolis to start a new life and a new career in the field that became his life's work.
Smaby and his partner Ben Bermel co-founded Bermel-Smaby Realty in 1946. By 1984, Bermel-Smaby had become Minneapolis' largest real estate firm. While he enjoyed his business success, Smaby was most proud of his 51 years of dedicated service to the real estate industry. He served with distinction as president of every major organization in his trade, including the Boards of Realtors of both Minneapolis (1957) and Minnesota (1964) as well as the National Association of Realtors NAR (1976) and International Federation of Real Estate (FIABCI) (1980). His 42-year term of service as the only lifetime member of the powerful NAR Executive Committee continued until his death. From modest beginnings, Bermel-Smaby became the industry's ethical gold standard, admired for the simple principles it espoused: Ethics are number one; don't prejudge - treat everyone the same; train employees well; and get involved in the community. Smaby embodied these principles throughout his life.
"He had the ability to lead other people to be the best they could be," said Ben Bermel's son Bruce, of Minnetonka, an industrial-commercial real estate broker. "He let people run with the ball." (Star Tribune)
By the mid-1980s, when Bermel-Smaby Realty was sold, it had 17 offices and more than 350 sales associates in the Twin Cities.
While Smaby was successful in business, he told his family, "It's not how much money you make, it's the friends that you make along your journey that will bring you the greatest joy in your life," his son John Smaby said. (Star Tribune)
Through his strategic oversight of United Properties, NorthMarq Real Estate Services, NorthMarq Capital and RJM Construction as CEO of Marquette Real Estate Group, Boyd Stofer’s influence on the commercial real estate industry can be seen throughout the region.
Equipped with a degree in engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and an M.B.A. from Harvard, Boyd joined of the Twin Cities commercial real estate community in 1978 when he accepted a position to spearhead United Properties’ development initiatives. He was named president and CEO in 1994 and, under his direction, the company became a diverse, market-leading commercial real estate firm. In 2004, United Properties was named NAIOP National Developer of the Year, the industry’s highest recognition, with the completion of the Centennial Lakes mixed-use development project in Edina.
During his career with the Marquette Real Estate Group, Stofer evolved from entrepreneurial developer to enterprise leader. In 2008, Stofer completed a broad reorganization that led to the formation of Marquette Real Estate Group, a holding company for the separate operating companies of United Properties, NorthMarq Real Estate Services, NorthMarq Capital and RJM Construction. The combined entities employ more than 1,000 people.
Stofer gave back to the community he served through his participation in numerous real estate industry associations and in his work to advance education in real estate. He was a past local president and national board member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP). He was a member of the Urban Land Institute, the Cornell Graduate Program in Real Estate Advisory Board, the University of St. Thomas Real Estate Advisory Board and the Editorial Advisory Board of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal, and was a governor of the National NAIOP Foundation. He also served as a board member of several organizations, including NorthMarq; United Properties; St. Paul Capital City Partnership; the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities; and the Trust for Public Land. In 1999, he received the President’s Award of Excellence from NAIOP, the organization’s highest individual award.
"In the 33 years he was here, he built these businesses to what they are today. I don't think there's any other business in our town that's comparable to what Boyd was able to build." Frank Dutke, president of United Properties. (Star Tribune)
"He was leading United Properties and in a period when people were building very rapidly. Boyd had a more measured approach that let United Properties survive. He had the same approach during the last economic troubles. He was an extremely smart strategic investor who didn't take wild risks." R.T. Rybak, Mayor of Minneapolis (Star Tribune)
“Boyd always challenged me to think about things in new ways. He would ask a lot of questions, and he'd frequently end the conversation by saying, 'Carry on,' it was kind of his way of gently moving the issue forward." Larry Pobuda, of Stewart Lawrence Group and former employee of United Properties (Star Tribune)
“Boyd had a brilliant real estate mind. He understood the real estate issues completely, but he understood them in a broader context. There isn’t one part of that company that doesn’t have Boyd’s name etched all over it.” Larry Pobuda, of Stewart Lawrence Group and former employee of United Properties (Finance and Commerce)