A Torero's Passion for Giving Back

Image is of Jacob (Jake) Schwartz '02

As is the case with most entrepreneurs, Jacob (Jake) Schwartz ‘02 has a passion for just about everything that he involves himself with. Whether he is managing his latest real estate development project in San Diego, or racing motocross on the weekend, Schwartz puts one hundred percent into every endeavor he takes on. His personal experiences as a student at the University of San Diego School of Business 

After completing his second year of community college in the summer of 1997, Schwartz was spending most of his time restoring yachts throughout San Diego Marinas as his primary source of income. That all changed when he opened an acceptance letter from the USD School of Business, which was accompanied by an academic scholarship.

“I recall feeling like I had won the lottery,” says Schwartz. “It was a pivotal moment in my life.” Schwartz quickly acclimated at USD and pursued a bachelor’s in business administration, with an emphasis on marketing and finance—that didn’t last long.

Daniel Rivetti, associate professor of finance at the USD School of Business is known for his quick wit and entertaining stories in the classroom. Rivetti introduced Schwartz to the world of real estate. While Schwartz chuckles that the entertainment value offered in Rivetti’s classroom was extremely high, the lessons he learned under Rivetti’s instruction were impressive and even more valuable.

“Professor Rivetti was the one that hooked me on real estate,” says Schwartz. “However, when I took the Real Estate Finance course, taught by Mark Riedy, PhD, [emeritus executive director of the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate] I made the decision to pivot and major in real estate instead.”

Schwartz says that Riedy’s teaching style focused less on using a calculator for analysis and more on calculating risk, which Schwartz was drawn to. “He taught us how to connect the dots from Main Street to Wall Street and that was something that I never dreamed I would learn in college,” says Schwartz. 

There was one last surprise for Schwartz before he graduated. On the last day of classes, Schwartz was called into Riedy’s office and was presented with the very special Daniel B. Woodruff Memorial Scholarship. This scholarship honors academic excellence and intellectual curiosity and is a permanent tribute to an extraordinary USD alumnus. The scholarship is awarded to only a few, hand-selected students.

“I felt like the luckiest person in the world at that moment and it opened many doors for me,” says Schwartz. ”The scholarship gave me a sense of gratitude and motivated me to give back to USD, through mentoring, teaching and helping to shape the future of USD real estate students.” While the scholarship Schwartz was awarded is not one which is eligible for students to apply for, he strongly encourages students to learn about and apply for the vast number of scholarships available to USD real estate students through the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. Schwartz says that the scholarship led him to meet some of the most influential people in his career, including his long-time mentor and business partner, Sherm Harmer, president of Urban Housing Partners.

Following USD, Schwartz began working for two nationally known real estate investment banks:  Johnson Capital and Silver Portal Capital. In 2002, Schwartz joined Urban Housing Partners. Over the last 10 years, Schwartz was instrumental in helping to execute large real estate development projects for the firm. Schwartz is a strategic thinker and possesses a well-rounded skill-set which enables him success in handling all types of projects including: hotel, senior housing, retail, office and parking.

In 2018, while still working alongside Harmer at Urban Housing Partners, Schwartz started his own company, Urban Coastal Development, where he serves as president. His business focuses on redevelopment. His most recent project is a conversion project, from office space, into a 27 micro-unit residential property in the Gaslamp District. That project is scheduled to begin construction this month. While his day-to-day operations keep him quite busy, Schwartz remains dedicated to his passion–giving back to support USD real estate students.

“The professors at USD are simply the best. Their patience and encouragement throughout my time at USD as a student, left a huge impression and I want to share that same grace and empathy with students who might be in a similar situation.”

Schwartz employs his passion as a lecturer in the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program at the USD School of Business and enjoys sharing his knowledge and real-world experience with students interested in development and real estate finance.

“Every student has a different way of learning. I have been in their shoes, so I want to make sure they get the support they need to be successful,” says Schwartz.”

Schwartz also teaches Microsoft Excel workshops for USD real estate students and has spent the last six years serving as a coach and advisor for the USD undergraduate NAIOP University Challenge real estate team, which partakes annually in a local real estate case competition among three local universities (USD, SDSU and UCSD). The competition takes place in April, so Schwartz had two USD real estate students working alongside him in his office, reviewing plat maps and financial models for this year’s challenge, while being interviewed for this spotlight story. Undergraduate real estate students who have been fortunate to learn from and be mentored by Schwartz are grateful for his wisdom and motivation.

Alex Baracchini ‘20 was a member of USD’s 2019 NAIOP University Challenge team when USD won 1st place in the competition. That year, the team’s innovative design and financial modeling for the redevelopment of the SPAWAR complex off Pacific Highway in San Diego received high accolades from the judges and NAIOP members. Baracchini experienced first-hand Schwartz’s commitment to raising the bar and mentoring the team.

“His energy is contagious,” says Baracchini. “He motivates students to push beyond their limits and ultimately expand their understanding of real estate.”

Equally, Schwartz is amazed by the maturity and breadth of knowledge that USD real estate students exhibit year-over-year. “Every year, I am so amazed and impressed by the students and I learn something new from them,” says Schwartz. “One of my guiding principles is a steady and continual growth trajectory.”

In addition to being a NAIOP University Challenge coach, Schwartz participates in both the MSRE and undergraduate mentorship programs at USD, where he serves as a mentor and advisor.

Schwartz credits much of his success to his mentor and business partner Sherm Harmer who shared with him that success isn’t always easy to define, because it is a moving target.

“When I was young, I thought that success was defined by how much money you made,” says Schwartz. “Now, I see that there is so much more to life than that and overcoming personal challenges and giving back to your community are key to being happy and successful.” Harmer also taught Schwartz early in their relationship that success outside of work is equally important. “No matter where we went or who we met with, Sherm always treated everyone equally, he made them feel special, recognized and respected” says Schwartz, who tries to emulate that philosophy each day he interacts with business associates and with the USD students he engages with.

The respect and admiration that Schwartz has for Harmer is equally reciprocated. “Jacob always demonstrates an incredible passion to be a consummate professional,” says Harmer. “He generously and willfully shares his knowledge and skills with the students. Watching him interact with the students, you can tell that they respect him and want to learn from him—they simply love him!”

Simply put, Schwartz is a Torero who has an incredible passion for giving back and making a difference in so many real estate students’ lives at USD. We are lucky to have him.

“I feel so blessed to have been given a chance to go to USD and meet so many incredible people,” says Schwartz. “I simply want to return the favor, not because I feel obligated to, but because I truly enjoy the time that I spend with the students and I hope to make a lasting impression on them.”

In his free time, Schwartz enjoys surfing, snowboarding, motocross, the outdoors, traveling, going to concerts and spending time in his home town of Pacific Beach, CA.

 

—By Joe Bertocchini '01, scholarship, development and alumni manager and Kimberly Malasky, director of communications and marketing.

Contact:

Kimberly Malasky
kmalasky@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4786