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George Rolfe Retires

On Thursday, May 26th, 2016, Runstad Center staff, faculty, board, alumni and current students gathered together to celebrate George Rolfe’s retirement and his venerable career. The soiree was held at the beautiful Melrose Market Studio in Capitol Hill.

The evening was filled with laughter and sentimental moments. Peter Orser, the event’s MC, began the evening by sharing that Mayor Ed Murray had proclaimed it George Rolfe Day:

WHEREAS, George was appointed in 1973 as the first Director of the Pike Place Market Public Development Authority (PDA) and, in this capacity, played a significant and crucial role in the economic revitalization of the iconic Pike Place Market by managing the entire rehabilitation process without ever closing the Market; and

WHEREAS, George was instrumental in making Pike Place Market the vibrant, urban space it is today, leading efforts to redirect automobile traffic in the Market and pave the streets with pedestrian-friendly brick, and working with the City of Seattle to create the first pedestrian zone; and

WHEREAS, under George’s direction, the PDA initiated a plan to rebuild hundreds of low income housing units, many of which today support the Market’s over 450 residents; and

WHEREAS, George was a pioneer in real estate education, teaching real estate before it was formally recognized as an academic discipline and eventually shaping the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, a leading Masters program at the University of Washington; and

WHEREAS, since 1985, George has been highly regarded as a Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Architecture at the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington, well known among his students for bringing practical, real life application of coursework into his classes; and

WHEREAS, in 1988, George Rolfe played a pivotal role in structuring the Commercial Real Estate Certificate Program at the University of Washington, enhancing educational programs currently available to working professionals; and

WHEREAS, he has, as an educator, mentor, friend and industry leader, challenged, inspired and positively influenced thousands of students who continue to actively impact the local, statewide and global environments across many disciplines, including construction management, urban and city planning, architecture and landscape architecture.


George was then also gifted a framed letter from President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost and Executive Vice President Gerald Baldasty, who also recognized his career and legacy in a letter of thanks:

“Dear George,

As you embark on your well-deserved retirement, I want to express our deep appreciation for your 32 years of distinguished service to the University of Washington. As a member of our faculty, you have had a positive impact on many students whose lives were changed through engagement with you. You were a pioneer in developing real estate education at a time when real estate was not yet fully recognized as an academic discipline. You earned a reputation for being a demanding professor, but one whose students say has had the greatest impact on shaping their careers. Our graduates have gone on to become leaders in the community, and all have George Rolfe stories to tell based on their memorable experiences in your classes.

You have been an effective collaborator with local real estate industry leaders in the creation of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies and its highly regarded master’s degree program. We are proud to have had you as a colleague and wish you the best as you transition on to the next phase of your life. The University and its alumni will be forever grateful for your long distinguished service on our faculty.


Ana Mari Cauce
Gerald Baldasty

Current and former students then shared their best memories and “George-isms” in a video clip of complied selfies. The individual clips ranged from informative to cheesy, from serious to outrageous, but all celebrated the impact that George has had on the growing real estate community. While students may bemoan the difficulty of George’s class, or the sheer amount of work, they are more excited and spurred on by what they learn from George. This is reflected in George’s enthusiasm for teaching. “It’s like watching your child be born, or watching your child grow up.  Interacting with students who are anxious and hungry to learn, that work hard at it, that get insights into what you’re talking about and push back and challenge me to think. That kind of intellectual and emotional connection is what teaching is all about, in my mind.  It’s why I get up in the morning.”

We want to send a heartfelt thanks to all of our wonderful sponsors who helped make George’s party a night to remember:

Metzler Real Estate
Lake Union Partners
The Wolff Company
Revolve Development
Martin Selig Real Estate
Trammell Crow
Al Levine
Liz Dunn
Andrew Brand
Alan Byers
Val Thomas
Doug Larson
Campbell Mathewson

Here are some photos from the evening: