By Anne Louise Cropp
It seems fitting that two of Penn State’s leading philanthropists met at one of the University’s most cherished landmarks.
Jason Borrelli said that when he and Julie King (now Borrelli) met on a hike up Mount Nittany during their junior year, they could not have envisioned how their lives would unfold or the impact they would eventually make at their alma mater.
The Borrellis, both of whom are second-generation Penn Staters, graduated in 1994.
Jason earned a degree in aerospace engineering and began his career with NASA in the Washington, D.C. area. Meanwhile, Julie completed a degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management and joined Marriott International at its flagship property in Bethesda, Maryland.
Wanting a change of pace, the couple joined National Properties Inc., a real estate investment, property management, and development business co-founded by Julie’s father, Jeff King, less than two years later. Jason worked in the property management and construction division and Julie worked in marketing and human resources.
The Borrellis say that their shift to real estate was possible because Penn State gave them the tools to succeed. Even so, Jason eventually wanted a stronger business foundation. In 2006, he earned an MBA from Penn State Great Valley with a focus in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies.
Today, he is senior principal for operations at EQT|Exeter, a real estate investment management firm that focuses on acquiring, developing, leasing, and managing logistics/industrial, office, life science and multifamily properties.
He joined Smeal’s Real Estate Advisory Board in 2016 and currently serves as vice chair. He is also a member of Smeal’s Board of Visitors.
Brent Ambrose, professor of real estate, Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate, Smeal director of Ph.D. programs, and director of the Institute for Real Estate Studies, says Jason’s leadership has been “tremendous and impactful.
“Jason is always willing to spend time with our students by speaking at events, mentoring them, participating in mock interviews, and myriad other ways that make Smeal a special community,” Ambrose says.
Jason said that when he joined the Real Estate Advisory Board, the board’s goals were clear — help develop one of the best real estate programs in the country, support faculty, and serve more students. The board also wanted to see real estate as a stand-alone major, rather than one of three options under the risk management major.
“The board talks about how real estate professionals aren’t risk managers, they’re risk takers,” he says.
Ambrose said that a stand-alone major solidifies Smeal’s position that real estate scholarship is important not just for students, but for society in general.
“Buildings contribute up to 40 percent of all carbon emissions. If you think about climate change and energy use, real estate development comes to mind. When you look at investments, real estate is a unique asset class with unique laws around how it can be managed and controlled. Real estate really does touch many aspects of our everyday lives,” he says.
Over the last six years, the Borrellis have become two of the strongest advocates for real estate education at Penn State.
Two years ago, the couple endowed the Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate in the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Last fall, the couple made a $5 million commitment to Smeal’s Institute for Real Estate Studies.
The Institute will be named the Jason and Julie Borrelli Institute for Real Estate Studies in recognition of their gift.
The Borrellis say they hope their gift will solidify the foundation of Smeal’s real estate program and provide the resources for future success.
According to Ambrose, the Borrellis’ gift will allow Smeal to expand programs sponsored by the institute that help students connect and engage with the real estate industry, such as Real Estate Boot Camp or lecture series that invite leading real estate professionals to meet with students to discuss current issues facing the profession. It will also help promote and expand student and faculty research opportunities, provide resources for experiential learning, and allow for an enhanced career and internship placement program.
“I am continually amazed by the Borrellis’ generosity, by their passion for real estate education, and by their commitment to our students and faculty,” said Smeal Dean Charles H. Whiteman. “A named institute will truly change our real estate program and ensure we remain a global leader in the field, allowing us to recruit and retain the best faculty and attract even more students interested in careers in the real estate industry.”
Following the Borrellis’ commitment last fall, Ambrose began the process of applying for the discipline to become a stand-alone major. He said that he hopes it will be approved in time for the fall 2022 semester.
The Borrellis say they consider themselves fortunate to be able to carry on the legacy of volunteerism and philanthropy to Penn State’s real estate program established by Julie’s parents, Jeff and Cindy King.
Jeff King, a 1967 graduate with a degree in marketing, joined Smeal’s Real Estate Advisory Board in the late 2000s.
Over the years, Jeff and Cindy King have made significant gifts to support Smeal and its real estate program, as well as the College of Education, University Libraries, and other areas across the University.
The Borrellis say they see their commitment as an extension of Julie’s father’s work with the board.
“Real estate touches so many different aspects of business, and we think it is important for students to be exposed to it,” Julie says. “We’re excited to see the idea of a stand-alone major coming to fruition. Knowing this is something that started so long ago, that my dad had his hands in, and now Jason and I get to help carry it across the finish line is so exciting.”
Julie Borrelli left National Properties when her son, Drew, a third-generation Penn Stater, was born. She has been actively involved in supporting her children’s school and athletic activities, and she and Jason are both involved with the Talk School, a center for the education of children with autism and speech/language disorders.
Now that Drew and their daughter, Sophie, a high school senior, are grown, Julie is hoping to turn her attention toward volunteering at Penn State.
In addition to their gifts to Smeal’s real estate program, the couple also endowed the Jason and Julie Borrelli Trustee Scholarship and the Borrelli Family Open Doors Scholarship in the Smeal College of Business, the Jason and Julie Borrelli Open Doors Scholarship in the College of Engineering, and the Borrelli Educational Equity Scholarship.
Jason and Julie say there is joy in giving back to the University that has given so much to them.
“To come in and create something that can have such an impact and such longevity is so meaningful for us,” Jason says. “We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for real estate education and scholarship at Penn State.”