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Kerry Nicholson

Find Your Community – and Give Back!


Kerry Nicholson is among our longest serving Advisory Board members, having been recruited in the early 1990’s by the founding director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, Bob Filley, to join the effort to establish real estate education at the University of Washington. From 2020-2021 he assumed the role of Advisory Board Chair.

Like many in the industry, Kerry’s path into real estate was a bit circuitous. A native Midwesterner, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UC Berkeley in Political Science with plans to go to law school. First though, he spent a year as a pharmaceutical salesman (which he hated) and then 15 months travelling in Europe and doing a safari across Africa (which he loved). By the time he returned home, his father had passed away and his financial situation was changed. Through a relative in the banking industry, he heard about a “grow your own” program at First Chicago that specifically sought liberal arts undergraduates and put them through the University of Chicago MBA program in their downtown evening program. (So much for law school). Kerry loved the MBA program but working at the bank, not so much, until in his last rotation, he was assigned to the commercial real estate lending group. Finally, he had found his tribe. He flourished underwriting high risk/high reward real estate loans and dealing with the “wild cowboy” developers who predominated in the industry at that time.

He missed the west coast though and in 1978 followed a couple of MBA classmates to Seattle where among the first people he met in town were Bob Filley and Jon Runstad. Ultimately, he took a position with Wells Fargo and spent the next few decades as a real estate banker at several different banks. In 1999 he changed hats and joined Legacy Partners, leading their northwest multifamily development operations until recently, when he stepped back to part time focusing on projects in Hawaii.

Throughout his career Kerry has been extremely active in civic and professional organizations. For 30 years he has served on the local board of the Big Brother/Big Sister organization, including a turn as president, and he and his wife Gwen continue to be among their most effective fundraisers. Kerry is also an active ULI member, serving as chair of ULI Northwest and founding/chairing the local multifamily product council. Kerry is also a member of ULI’s national Urban Development/Mixed Use Council. He is excited about leading the Runstad Advisory Board through its next chapter of supporting the Department, including through the very exciting expansion of real estate programs for undergraduates. Kerry says, “The board is comprised of an unparalleled group of sophisticated real estate executives who share a commitment to the next generation of real estate leaders and it is a privilege to work with them to support the Department as it works toward a national and international reputation for excellence in real estate education, research and service.”

Kerry embodies the values of integrity, treating people right, and giving back to the community and we are grateful to have the benefit of his leadership for the Runstad Advisory Board.