It was a trip to the library in the mid-1970s that led Charlie Wurtzebach (BUS '71) to his future career. Then a PhD candidate in finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Wurtzebach needed to declare a specialty, which would be the focus of his teaching and research.
"I had several choices, such as corporate finance, insurance, and money and banking, among others," Wurtzebach recalls. "I did research on all the available possibilities compared to positions available for newly-minted PhDs, and real estate had the best opportunities."
Supporting this choice was the fact that he had already survived his first foray into the real estate industry as a property manager for a fraternity house at Northern Illinois University, a job he describes as "quite a challenge." So, Wurtzebach chose to specialize in real estate, steering his future toward a distinguished career as an academic and practitioner in the field.
Forty years later, Wurtzebach is helping DePaul University business students find their best opportunities in real estate as the new chair of the Department of Real Estate and as the Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Director of the Real Estate Center. Wurtzebach was named to the three-year dual appointment in July, succeeding Susanne Cannon, the founder of the department and center, who retired earlier this year.
It was at Cannon's invitation that Wurtzebach first joined DePaul's faculty as the George L. Ruff Professor in 2009. She had been his student when he directed the Real Estate and Urban Land Economics program at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1980s, and they had kept in touch over the years.
The DePaul professorship also brought Wurtzebach back to his roots. He grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side and earned his bachelor's degree in finance from DePaul, followed by an MBA in finance from Northern Illinois University and then the PhD from U of I. "I always remained close to DePaul," Wurtzebach says.
Over his career, Wurtzebach has had the opportunity to apply his academic knowledge to leadership roles in industry, too. In the institutional real estate field he previously served as managing director and property chief investment officer for Henderson Global Investors Inc. He also has been president and chief executive officer of Heitman Capital Management and president of JMB Institutional Realty.
Wurtzebach's experience in both the theory and practice of real estate provides an ideal background for advancing the mission of DePaul's real estate program and center. His priorities are to grow the enrollment in degree programs, including the Master of Science in Real Estate; increase scholarships; and continue to nurture industry relationships, which support robust mentoring, internship and full-time career connections for DePaul real estate students and graduates.
At the Real Estate Center, Wurtzebach says he will focus on increasing grant funding and the wider dissemination of research on affordable housing trends produced by the Institute for Housing Studies. "The institute has created a data clearinghouse, and we want to make that more available to researchers around the U.S."
Outside of work, Wurtzebach is an experienced sailor who enjoys racing his 36-foot Beneteau sailboat, called FOG, in the annual Chicago-to-Mackinac Island yacht race. "My dad got us into sailing, and when I was 13 my brother Paul and I were on the U.S. Sailing Team that competed in the Junior Pan Am Games," Wurtzebach recalls fondly.
Now at the helm of DePaul's real estate program, Wurtzebach is setting a course for success. "My plan is to continue to grow and develop the real estate undergraduate, MBA and MS enrollments, as well as the research initiatives, which make DePaul the most comprehensive real estate program in the area."
Learn more about DePaul's real estate programs:
MBA concentration in Real Estate Finance and Investment
Master of Science in Real Estate