By creating a scholarship in Urban and Regional Development, alumnus Jon Goldstein is helping this generation of students find their passion.
Jon Goldstein was 34 when he found a career he was passionate about: real estate debt and equity broker. He discovered it by trial and error. Throughout the process, the skills he learned as a University of Arizona student played a critical role in his success.
Wanting to give back to his alma mater, Jon has established the Jon Goldstein Scholarship in Urban and Regional Development to provide students with funds to help offset the cost of getting a higher education.
Finding His Calling
Jon was not a likely Wildcat. He grew up in the D.C. area and was looking at East Coast colleges. When a high school friend raved about the University of Arizona, Jon visited campus and changed his plans.
“I attended the UA primarily to do something different,” Jon said. “I was interested in experiencing another part of the country that I had previously not spent any time in. I wanted to go to a large university that would afford me the opportunity of meeting someone new every day.”
Jon majored in economics and admitted the major was not a perfect fit for him. Nevertheless, he stuck with it and enjoyed his time as a student.
“I liked a lot of my professors and classes and just the general support of the University,” Jon said. “The weather was a big draw, of course. I loved the campus and fondly remember my days of hanging out on the mall, getting some sun, and kicking a hacky sack around with my friends. I really enjoyed going to football and basketball games when I was fortunate enough to get tickets.”
Jon graduated in 1993 on the heels of the recession and ended up working for a local bank. He found the work unfulfilling and monotonous.
“In hindsight, I probably worked there too long,” Jon said. “I knew it wasn’t for me, but I was struggling with what I wanted to do.”
Jon decided to go to graduate school full time, getting his MBA in finance and investments from the George Washington University, with the intention of ultimately becoming a portfolio manager of a mutual fund. Then 9/11 happened, which drastically altered the job market. Wanting to start a family, he returned to banking for financial security. He started doing a few commercial real estate loans and was fascinated. In 2004, when a job became available with a commercial real estate brokerage firm in DC, he applied and got it.
“I knew on my first day on the job that I finally found my calling,” Jon said. “It felt like I was born to do this. And 18 years later, I’m still saying the same thing. It doesn’t feel like a job because I just enjoy it that much.”
Jon is currently Principal of Capital Markets Group Debt & Equity Finance at Avison Young. He focuses primarily on debt and equity placement for office, retail, industrial, hospitality, and multi-family properties and has underwritten and closed more than $8 billion in financings during his career.
“I don’t have the money, but I find the money for my clients,” Jon said. “I enjoy bringing two parties together. I’m a deal junkie. Each deal is different, and each day is different. It’s fast paced and it’s something that I really enjoy doing.”
Jon loves to hear the stories of his clients and how they became successful. “It’s like being a part-time psychologist.”
The skills he learned in school have helped him succeed, Jon said, especially the ability to juggle multiple projects, be self-motivated, and work with various personalities on group projects.
“I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my college and graduate school experiences,” he said.
Helping the Next Generation
A huge Wildcat sports fan, Jon admits he was interested in meeting with SBS Director of Development Dave Silver because Dave used to be a Tucson sportscaster when Jon was a student.
“Dave and I have built a good relationship over the years,” Jon said. “He asked if I was interested in creating a scholarship. I’ve always donated every year, and I said yes – it’s a way for me to give back to the university that I love.”
He decided to focus on students majoring in urban and regional development because of its connection to real estate. The major, housed in the School of Geography, Development & Environment, addresses urban and regional growth, land development, and real estate.
“I want to give students an opportunity and help them get where they want to be,” Jon said, adding that his son, Tyler, is a freshman in college right now. “It blows me away how expensive it is.”
“We truly appreciate the support of Jon Goldstein and his commitment to the students in our urban and regional development program,” said Carl Bauer, director of the School of Geography, Development & Environment. “His endowment will support our students for many years to come.”
Jon also serves on the board of the George Washington University’s real estate and finance alliance and as a student mentor.
“I always tell students. ‘Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want to do. If you’re hard-working and passionate about what you do, then you’ll eventually figure it out. The best thing you can do is network and not burn any bridges along the way,’” Jon said.
This story was included in the Spring 2023 Developments newsletter.