Shenehon Center for Real Estate
2013 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.
As president of Bisanz Brothers Construction Company, Leonard Bisanz was responsible for developing many of the homes in St. Paul’s Highland Park. His impact can still be seen today in the community.
Bisanz was born in 1918 and attended Cretin High School. A gifted baseball player, he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians after graduation. However, he chose instead to attend the College (now University) of St. Thomas. Upon graduating in 1941, Bisanz served in the U.S. Navy for five years and achieved the rank of commander as a naval aviator during World War II. He was one of the first pilots ever to fly a plane into a hurricane to provide critical tracking information for Atlantic fleet operations.
Following the war, Bisanz and his brothers Charles and Norbert, along with the help of their sister, Colette, founded Bisanz Brothers Construction Company. The Bisanz Brothers built more than 700 homes in the Highland Park community in St. Paul. The company was particularly outstanding in the publicity field. It garnered media attention for its strategic sales and marketing plans, and its impeccable customer service continued long after the sale. The Bisanz Brothers created an after-sale program where it educated customers on how to properly care for their homes. Once all the homes on a block were sold, the company hosted a neighborhood block party. The Bisanz Brothers’ work was not only admired locally, but also recognized in the national industry. It is the only homebuilder to win national awards from Practical Builder Magazine in consecutive years.
In addition to his professional endeavors, Bisanz was an active leader in many homebuilder associations. He was president of the St. Paul Home Builder’s Association; four-time director of the National Association of Home Builders; member of the board of directors, St. Paul Board of Realtors; and member of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Commission. He also held many service and stewardship positions in the community. Bisanz was a lifetime member of the President’s Council of the University of St. Thomas; chairman of the College of St. Catherine Board of Trustees; member of the Founders Circle of St. Paul Seminary; and president of the College of St. Thomas Alumni Association. He was named alumni of the year by the University of St. Thomas in 1979.
A lifelong supporter of the St. Paul community, we have Leonard Bisanz to thank for setting a gold standard in the local homebuilding industry.
As one of the first female leaders in the Twin Cities real estate community, Helen Brooks paved the way for women in commercial real estate.
When she first embarked on a career in commercial real estate, finding a company that would take a chance on hiring a woman was a challenge. At that time, women simply were not in the industry. Brooks got her feet wet at Premiere Realty when they hired her in 1965. She spent four years at the company before venturing out on her own and founding Brokers’ Exchange in 1969. After working for nine years on many successful deals with clients such as Pizza Hut, White Castle and McDonald’s, Bill Reiling and Fred Lamb of Towle Real Estate offered her a position. Brooks quickly became known industry-wide as “that woman at Towle,” successfully working with many satisfied clients while representing the industry exceptionally well.
After settling in at Towle, Brooks sought to enhance her credibility. She became a member of the reputable, but male-dominated, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR). When she applied for membership, only two of SIOR’s 1,600 members were women. She went on to serve as president of the SIOR Mid-Continent Chapter and the SIOR district vice president. She has been involved in several professional associations, holding leadership positions in the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks, Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors and Women in Real Estate. She has won numerous awards, including the NAIOP’s President Award for distinguished service to the real estate industry. Brooks was named Commercial Realtor of the Year in 1997 by the Organization of Commercial Realtors, won the Robert Boblett Award by SIOR in 2000, and in 2010 was the second ever to receive the Milly Award by SIOR International. The Milly Award recognizes one woman’s outstanding achievement in the commercial real estate industry.
In addition to her professional association involvement, Brooks also volunteers in the community. She has served on several boards, including the Cricket Theater and the Zoning Task Force for St. Louis Park and for Maple Grove. Brooks worked with the Service Corps of Retired Executives, helping others realize their dreams of starting their own business. She is a member of Temple Israel and Temple Israel Sisterhood, as well as the National Council of Jewish Women.
Described by his peers as the preeminent mortgage broker in the Twin Cities, Tom Crowley has directed countless financing projects in the real estate community.
A graduate of St. Benedict’s College in Kansas, Crowley has more than 43 years’ experience in the mortgage banking industry. He spent 41 years at Heitman, LLC where he was a partner and executive vice president responsible for placement of debt with correspondent lenders, of which TIAA was a major source. He was an integral part of a program that generated more than $4.5 billion of mortgage loans and a servicing portfolio of $2 billion.
After retiring from Heitman, Crowley joined Dougherty Funding, LLC as executive vice president. His portfolio of work is expansive. He has regional and national recognition with the financing of specific projects such as Mall of America, North Park Regional Mall of Dallas, five Ritz Carlton Hotels, IDS Center, City Center of Minneapolis, Republic Plaza of Denver and Citicorp Plaza Los Angeles, among other properties. His client lists have included Oxford Properties, OPUS, Carlson Companies, the Simon Organization, the Ryan Companies, the Hillwood Group, CSM, the Mid America Companies, United Properties, the Klodt Companies, the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, the Hyatt Organization and Kimco Realty.
Admired by his colleagues, Crowley is said to always make certain each deal is a win-win situation for all involved. He has been described as consistently high achieving, well respected and unrivaled as a mortgage broker. His work ethic, values, diligence, honesty and integrity are second to none.
Crowley is a board member of Realty Equity Ventures of Citigroup and a member of the University of St. Thomas Real Estate Advisory Board.
The list of financing transactions Tom has spearheaded in his 40+ years of involvement in commercial real estate finance is staggering, simply staggering; an extraordinary performance unequalled in today’s marketplace. Tom’s personal and professional contributions to the Twin Cities’ commercial real estate industry are phenomenal. – Patty Gnetz, Senior Vice President, US Bank
If someone performed at a higher level of accomplishment in Minnesota real estate finance, I haven’t met them and likely never will. – John N. Allen, CEO and sole principal of Industrial Equities, LLP.
After nearly 60 years in the business, Mortenson Construction, which started from humble beginnings around a Richfield kitchen table, has grown to an international enterprise with revenues of more than $2 billion dollars per year.
M.A. “Mort” Mortenson, Sr.’s entrée into the construction business occurred at a young age. His father Nels, a Swedish immigrant, worked as a carpenter for the James Leck Company in Minneapolis. Mortenson and his brothers worked with their father on projects as the family moved from job to job. It was from his father that Mortenson learned the importance of hard work and high quality. After completing a program in building construction in 1925 at The William Wood Dunwoody Industrial Institute, Mortenson and two associates founded the Northland Construction Company. The entrepreneurial venture was ill-timed. The Great Depression devastated the country and the fledgling construction company could not attract the financing it needed. After building the hangar at Camp Ripley, the company went broke. This experience starting a business would prove to be valuable down the road.
Mortenson found work with his father’s employer, James Leck Company, in 1932. By 1954, he was working as the vice president and treasurer of D’Arcy Leck Construction Company, the successor to James Leck Company. Although Mortenson had a good job with the firm, he had the desire to do something on his own. A 30-year veteran of the construction industry, Mortenson knew he was taking a risk starting his own business. At the age of 48, in a leap of faith and with the encouragement of his close friend Earl Hacking, who said, “Just do it. Stop dreaming about it,” Mortenson founded Mortenson Construction. With his wife Jennie working as the telephone operator, stenographer, payroll clerk, bookkeeper and chief morale officer, the couple launched a business that would grow to be one of the most recognized construction firms in the country.
Mortenson Construction’s first job was a $370 remodeling project for the Paul Bunyan Bait Company. Business grew steadily throughout the 1950s and boomed in the 1960s. Mortenson headed countless projects throughout the state, including hospitals, power plants, schools and university buildings. At the time of his retirement in 1970, Mortenson Construction was winning multi-million dollar contracts and had established strong relationships with several organizations.
Mortenson built a company that continues to flourish. While the company expands, new offices are established and big deals are made, one thing remains constant: M.A. Mortenson’s ingenuity, perseverance and hard work are rooted in every project.
When it came to advice, his message was simple and always the same: work hard, concentrate, apply yourself. These principles were central to each task, to each job. – M.A. Mortenson, Jr.
Ken Stensby’s passion for adventure was a trait that influenced him both personally and professionally. Through strategic leadership, Stensby helped build United Properties, once a small of company of four employees, to a booming enterprise with more than $100 million net worth.
Stensby was raised in Minneapolis and graduated with a B.A. in economics from Carleton College in 1961. Upon graduation, he worked as a mortgage analyst in the Mortgage & Real Estate Department of Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, producing and underwriting commercial mortgage loans, principally in the Southeast United States.
Stensby returned to the Twin Cities in 1967 as vice president of Northland Mortgage Company – the predecessor of NorthMarq Capital - which, within a few years, became the leading commercial mortgage company in Minnesota. During that time, Stensby helped arrange the original financing on the IDS Center in Minneapolis and the refinancing for the expansion of Southdale Shopping Center in Edina.
In 1971, Stensby transferred to the related United Properties division of The Northland Company. At that time, UP was a small division and had been substantially inactive for many years. Stensby, at age 32, was authorized to develop the strategic plan and business model that led to UP becoming a leading commercial real estate development company. At the time of his retirement in 1995, UP had grown to more than $100 million in net worth, developing approximately $25 million of new projects annually and employing more than 200 professionals.
Stensby was a leader and member of many real estate professional associations. He served as national director for several terms of the National Association of Industrial & Office Parks (NAIOP), as well as the president in 1986. One of his proudest accomplishments was the initiation of the Community Enhancement Program, which has generated millions of dollars for beneficiaries such as the CornerHouse Child Abuse Evaluation Center in Minneapolis.
In addition to his many professional accomplishments, Stensby was active in athletics and outdoor adventures. He enjoyed cycling, sailing and long-distance running. He participated in several week-long bike rides for charity, sailed between the British Virgin Islands and the Mediterranean, and completed five marathons including Boston and London.
Truly a man with a passion and zest for life, Stensby’s many accomplishments leave a lasting impact.