Fred Pierce

Jumping off a figurative cliff without a safety net is not easy. While there is huge risk, there may be huge rewards.

Certainly, this was true of the Pilgrims when they boarded the Mayflower for the new world. And it was also true of one of the descendants of those early settlers, Frederick W. Pierce IV ('84, finance, '88 M.B.A.), over three centuries later when he made the decision to quit his job and start a new company with only the promise of a 90-day consulting job and not much more.

In the end, the Pilgrims risky decision to settle in the New World brought freedom and prosperity to many in the generations that followed, including Pierce. He took a chance and began his company, Pierce Education Properties (PEP) based solely on the short-term contract offered by the San Diego State University Foundation to prepare a redevelopment implementation plan for land around the university.

It all started when Pierce met with the Foundation in 1995 after two large local developers had failed to initiate the project. They told him that if, after the 90 days, his plan was approved, they would consider hiring him to implement it. "I knew since college that I wanted to be a principal in the real estate business and this seemed like my big break," said Pierce. "Despite the fact that the contract was for a rate at one-third my salary, there were no guarantees of a follow-on assignment, and I only had about $10,000 in savings, I decided the opportunity was too good to pass up."

SDSU taught me sound business fundamentals in many key disciplines and I have used that practical knowledge continuously throughout my career.

The gamble paid off, Pierce was awarded the development contract, thus launching PEP, now a $275 million company with properties owned and managed at universities throughout the U.S. including Arizona State University, University of Oklahoma and Michigan State University. PEP is known at SDSU for the development of the student apartment complex, Piedra del Sol and Fraternity Row.

Pierce says he has SDSU to thank for helping him to make good business decisions. "SDSU taught me sound business fundamentals in many key disciplines and I have used that practical knowledge continuously throughout my career," he said.

While the business skills Pierce learned at SDSU have served him well in his career, he has also served the university where, for the past 25 years, he volunteers for many of SDSU's foundations and boards. He was also a member of the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees for six years and serves as the vice chairman for the College of Business' Board of Directors. "Volunteer service to SDSU and the CSU has been a passion of mine for a very long time," he said. "Volunteer leaders can make a tremendous difference in assisting the university with its educational mission and the university needs and welcomes our help." Pierce was rewarded for his service when he was recognized in 1999 with the Monty Award, which is SDSU's highest alumni honor.

Pierce has also been recognized for his work in the community and his outstanding business skills having been recently named as San Diego's 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in th Real Estate and Construction category. As a savvy businessman and active alumnus, Pierce encourages today's SDSU students to stay connected after they graduate. "I have developed a tremendous network of friends and business colleagues through my support for SDSU and I would recommend that current students should stay connected to the university and to classmates after graduation," he advised. "SDSU will keep on adding value to your life if you stay connected and let it!"