In a general session at the 2016 NMHC Annual Meeting, NMHC President Doug Bibby interviewed Roger Staubach and Ron Terwilleger, two industry legends in their own right who, turns out, have much in common than just being highly successful in real estate.
Staubach, a former American football quarterback in the NFL, played quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for all 11 seasons of his career and led them to the Super Bowl five times. He started a commercial real estate business after his football career came to an end in the late 1970s, which he sold to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2008 for $613 million.
Chairman Emeritus and retired CEO of Trammel Crow Residential Ron Terwilliger established the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing in 2007 with a $5 million gift to the ULI Foundation. He is also founder and chairman of the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families.
The following Q & A provides highlights from their discussion.
Q: What was it that attracted both of you to the Naval Academy?
Staubach: I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My senior year I was looking into different programs. I went to look at the Naval Academy and I enjoyed the environment. It just clicked and I decided to go. Ultimately, I played football (he won the Heisman Trophy as quarterback) and graduated with a B.S. in science and engineering.
Terwilliger: Initially, I received a scholarship to George Washington University. In the middle of my first year I couldn’t bend over and, for the first time I knew, I had a back problem. The university told me to go home and live with my parents. Then, I was so upset that I decided to go to the Naval Academy after someone encouraged me. And, once I got there, I just liked it. Both Roger and I are on the board of the Naval Academy’s Foundation.
Staubach: Ron was the star of the basketball team and the captain of the baseball team.
Terwilliger: Roger was All-East in baseball. That was in the day that the Naval Academy was very strong in sports.
Q: What was it about the environment there that prepared you for your careers?
Terwilliger: At that time, one thing you had to learn was time management. You play your sport, then you have evening meal formation, then lights went out at 10:15 p.m. So we had to squeeze our work in. After lights out duing my plebe years, I had to sit in the shower to get my work done.
Staubach: I learned a lot about teamwork and discipline. We earned what we got. Those ingredients were important to me as an athlete and a businessman.
Q: Roger, what were the lessons in teamwork you got in football?
Staubach: It takes a lot of spectacular work to get spectacular results. I learned how important that extra work is. Teamwork is also really caring about someone else. All of us are takers, but if you’re only a taker, then there’s something wrong with that. Getting that balance is something we all have to learn. I learned a lot about handling difficult situations at the Naval Academy and through sports.
In the last game I played against the Rams - I was drove into the ground and I was definitely confused. I knew I was not going to be able to take us back as a team to where we were. So, at 38, I decided to retire and concussions had a lot to do with my decision.
Q: How are they going to solve the concussion problem in football?
Staubach: Healing is key. That can take about two or three weeks depending upon how it heals. Adjustments to the equipment and rules can also help.
Q: Ron, why did you start the J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families?
Terwilliger: I’ve been in the residential real estate business for 40 years and I haven’t ever seen affordable housing in a bigger crisis. My background includes 15 years at Habitat for Humanity and I see this worldwide. I was asked to give the John T. Dunlop Lecture at Harvard and was puzzled about what to talk about - as a result, I did a lot of research on housing conditions and got upset. We’re spending $200 billion at the federal level and I thought that was being misdirected.
At the Foundation, we’re hoping to elevate this issue and implement tax reform. We subsidize boats and second homes here in the U.S., but only one in four who have housing needs receives a subsidy. We’re hoping through research and talking to lawmakers we can redirect subsidies.
Also, Doug, you are an important new addition to the Terwilliger Foundation’s Advisory Committee when it comes to the multifamily community - especially when considering that homeownership is declining significantly across the nation.
Q: What policies have you implemented that have fostered balance for your employees?
Terwilliger: We are very focused on diversity in the nonprofit world. Benefits are all pretty much consistent with making sure that people are taking care of their children. It is difficult in the development business to find women - like in Trammel Crow. They add a big and important voice, a key dimension, so I really wish we had more women.
Staubach: We are going in the right direction toward diversity, it’s imperative in our business today. Women were a big part of our company in the beginning and have had an important role. When you go and meet with a company and you’re not matching up with that company, you might not get hired. It’s important from both a human and business standpoint. Our country really is suffering because of discrimination. In some ways we’re recovering and in some ways we’re are not.