On February 22, over 280 CREW members and their guests, including senior real estate practitioners and business leaders, gathered at the Standard Club for CREW Chicago’s 7th annual presentation of the Industry Leadership Award to Collete English Dixon, Executive Director of the Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate at Roosevelt University.
English Dixon, a longstanding CREW member and leader, is a past president of both CREW Chicago and CREW Network. Her dynamic background in commercial real estate includes property development, asset management, acquisitions, and investment management. Prior to her exciting new role with Roosevelt University, Collete was the Executive Director of Transactions for PGIM Real Estate, where she oversaw the sale of a diverse portfolio of over 200 investment properties valued at over $8.7 billion, and sourced more than $2.75 billion of investment opportunities.
A candid and heartfelt video opened the evening, providing highlights of English Dixon’s outstanding leadership in commercial real estate, and her many philanthropic efforts in the Chicago community and beyond. Personalized messages from esteemed colleagues and friends described Collete as having “rock star” visibility in the commercial real estate community. They characterized her ability to influence and lead through volunteerism as “a force of nature.” Touching and playful remarks from Collete’s daughter and husband highlighted her gold-standard work ethic and an uncompromising commitment to excellence that permeates all areas of her life.
Next, English Dixon provided insights into her decades of leadership in her keynote presentation entitled, "The Accidental Career." From humble beginnings as a coal miner’s daughter to the University of Notre Dame, Collete discovered her game-changing passion for real estate, ultimately becoming a change agent, shaping the future of the industry’s next leaders.
In the midst of this unexpected and undefined path, in an industry with very few women and even fewer women of color, Collete continually found herself tested. Determined to persevere, challenges in her early roles in asset management and development gave her the opportunity to cultivate foundational strengths such as attention to detail, decisiveness, and responsiveness. It was also during this time that Dixon found CREW Atlanta, where she recognized the importance of having a tribe of women to support her while facing the challenges of “boys’ club” dynamics.
A pivotal moment for Collete arrived when she sought out an acquisitions role in the Chicago market. Much to her surprise, the position revealed even greater challenges in diversity along with the steep learning curve presented by a new market and a new role.
Once again, Collete excelled in unchartered territory. But she did not do it alone. English Dixon credited the support of powerful women in CREW Chicago that helped her to develop her leadership skills and shape her brand in the industry as a knowledgeable, honest woman of integrity to be respected. Quickly grasping that her own branding would help shape the future of women who walked in her footsteps, Collete’s expanded sense of responsibility naturally led her to other unexpected roles as a mentor, role model, and sought after public speaker.
When English Dixon left Prudential in 2016, her next step was unclear. Knowing only that she hungered for something more, she sat with uncertainty until the next stage of her career was revealed. When the opportunity at Roosevelt University arrived, English Dixon wrestled with the uneasiness of how she would be defined in the industry if she was not a "deal person.”
Now, at Roosevelt, she is in a place to influence and shape future leaders, working on a legacy that transcends her transactional experience. Through a winding road of peaks and valleys, once again, an unexpected step has landed Collete right where she is meant to be.
Collete completed her story with the proclamation that, “she is not done.” She affirmed her commitment to continue to be a vocal and engaged participant to positively impact the Chicago real estate community, supporting the success and advancement of women and other underrepresented talent. She encouraged the audience to join her in her legacy, prodding those early in their careers to find a path that allows them to leave an imprint on the industry, and for those already on a path, to share their knowledge and success with others.
Amy Blumenthal, Crew Chicago President concluded the evening by acknowledging the 2017 CREW Chicago Scholarship recipients, Augusta Gudeman, Rachel Silverman, and Bethany Corbae.
In closing, we would like to extend a special thank you to our 2018 Dinner Sponsors. The evening would not have been possible without their support:
Partners: Chicago Title Insurance Company, Gould & Ratner LLP, Shepard Schwartz& Harris LLP, TCF Commercial Banking
Benefactors: Assurance, Berkadia, BKL Architecture, CBIZ, CIBC, Duke Realty, First American Title Insurance Company, The Goldie Initiative, Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture, KIG CRE, Norcon Inc., OKW Architects, Quarles & Brady LLP, Roosevelt University/Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate, Syndicated Equities, V3 Companies
More photos from the event