Chad Hagwood is one of the savviest real-estate gurus in Birmingham. But that doesn’t mean he can tell you where to find a sweet little two-bedroom fixer-upper. “I recall people automatically assuming that I was planning to become an agent selling homes when I told them I was studying real estate,” says Hagwood, a UAB alumnus who is now a senior vice president with Capmark Finance, an international commercial real-estate development firm.
Financing commercial real estate may not be the most visible aspect of the profession, but it is not hard to visualize its impact, Hagwood says. Just drive along Birmingham’s Highway 280, or any other major thoroughfare, and observe the profusion of office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping centers, self-storage facilities, and hotels. “Just as most people who buy homes need loans,” he says, “the owners and operators of these commercial real-estate properties need financing, too. It helps the return, and it frees up their capital to engage in other ventures.”
Hagwood used his own capital recently to make an investment in UAB, presenting the School of Business with a financial gift that helped the school restart its real-estate program. He says he wanted other students to benefit from the same opportunities for advancement he experienced when he studied real estate at UAB in the early 1990s.
“I’m passionate about UAB,” says Hagwood. “It’s a school that was in the right place at the right time for me, and my educational experiences truly made a difference in my personal development and professional career.” And there is no reason for UAB not to have a viable real-estate program, he continues. “The Birmingham area is the real-estate capital of the state; we’re surrounded by the biggest developers and the biggest owners, so why shouldn’t we have a program that supports that market?”
David Klock, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business, often refers to the role UAB plays in the education of “students of opportunity,” or first-generation college students. Hagwood views himself as one such student. “The dean is exactly right,” he says. “These students form a great reservoir of potential talent for UAB to tap into because there are certainly more students of opportunity out there than students of privilege. I was the first male in my family to graduate with a college degree, and I don’t think that story is very different from that of many people.”All things considered, Hagwood believes that it’s hard work that makes the difference in a person’s fortunes. “I think it really just comes down to focus,” he says. “I’m in agreement with the old saying, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get.’ I don’t consider myself the smartest person to have graduated from UAB, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who outworks me. As long as you are willing to work harder than the rest of the crowd, you’ll do just fine.”