Mike NealA native of San Gabriel, California, Mike Neal ('84, real estate/'96, M.S.) first became interested in attending SDSU when he visited the campus in the late 70's to attend his cousin's graduation. He liked what he saw and, when it came time for him to chose a college, he applied and was accepted to SDSU. "I liked the campus and the reputation of the business school," he said.

And while the choice of schools came easily for Neal, so did the choice of majors. Neal chose to major in finance with a real estate specialization. "Our family has been in construction for three generations. I enjoyed construction, but wanted to lead the vision and implementation of the projects," he explained.

After graduation, Neal worked as a project engineer for a downtown Los Angeles high rise, but he returned to San Diego and joined the H.G. Fenton Company in 1988. The H.G. Fenton Company specializes in the ownership and management of apartment, office and industrial space as well as real estate development.

"I liked the campus and the reputation of the business school..."
"I have always believed education is the key to opening up options and opportunities."

Initially, Neal was the company's development coordinator and it was not long after that he chose to go back to San Diego State to pursue his master of science degree in real estate. "I have always believed education is the key to opening up options and opportunities," said Neal. "I felt an M.S. degree in real estate would allow me to learn now and allow me to later capitalize on my expanded knowledge." Neal completed his graduate degree in 1996.

Six years later, in 2002, Neal became the president and C.E.O. of the H.G. Fenton Company. He was the first non-family member to do so in the history of the 100-year-old company.

While the real estate market has been experiencing an economic downturn, Neal says that today's real estate students can learn valuable lessons in the down real estate market. "Down markets are difficult and, yet, they are great opportunities," he said. "This is the time to do what it takes to be a part of a team, partnership, or other structure that has a plan and can raise capital. Down markets are a time to learn and sow seeds for up-market profits."