Steven Handler ’88

Steven HandlerWhy did you choose to attend SU as an undergrad? What did you study and how would you sum up your experience?

From grades 7 to 12, I attended The Rivers School in Weston, Massachusetts, which, at the time, was a small, all-boys high school with a strictly enforced dress code. Having that experience, I was interested in a large university with a lot of school spirit, a thriving Greek system, successful sports teams, and a place where I could meet new people every day.

The School of Management was a relatively new building on campus, which made my decision that much easier. I was fortunate enough to go to Syracuse knowing I wanted to get into my family business after graduation, so I paid attention to the classes being offered and how relevant they’d be to my future endeavors. I graduated with a degree in finance and couldn’t have been happier with my decision to attend SU.

Can you tell us about some of your more memorable experiences at SU? What has proved to be the most meaningful to you about your experience now that you have time to reflect?

I remember pulling up in front of Sadler Hall in the family station wagon with my parents, met by members of the Goon Squad who welcomed me and helped get all my personal items moved into my dorm room. That evening we had a floor meeting, and I was a bit overwhelmed and intimidated to see so many new faces. Little did I know that many of those people would become my closest friends and fraternity brothers.

As far as memorable experiences, my first football game in the Carrier Dome was pretty exciting. Syracuse was playing the University of Nebraska—ranked #1 in the country—and when SU won 17-9, we jumped out of the student section and onto the field. I remember seeing the goal posts coming down and thinking to myself, “This place is awesome!”

A lot of terrific memories were made on and around Marshall Street. We also saw Bruce Springsteen and the Grateful Dead in the Dome along with numerous football and basketball games. I was fortunate enough to go to New Orleans for the Final Four in 1987 and witnessed a devastating loss to Indiana in the NCAA Championship game when Keith Smart hit a baseline jumper over Howard Triche.

I heard President Bush and the Rev. Jesse Jackson speak in the War Memorial and Larry Bud Melman from the David Letterman Show impress us with his famous toast on a stick.

My favorite road trip was to Ann Arbor, to watch the SU vs. Michigan basketball game. Five of us crammed into a small car and travelled through Canada and down to Detroit before finally arriving on campus around 1 a.m. We ended up finding an open window in the Law Library on campus and spent the night in the reading room located in the basement of the building. We were hungry, it was late and everything was closed. The only food we could locate were Wolverine bars in the vending machines, but we had no quarters. It’s amazing how creative five college students can get when they want to get candy out of a vending machine!

Each experience made my connection to SU stronger, and they’ve all been woven into very happy memories. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my freshman roommate and best friend, David Lambert. To this day, Dave and I are good friends. We lived together for three years, see each other as often as time allows, and it’s nice to see our wives and children forming their own friendships.

Your youngest child, Kayla, recently enrolled at Syracuse as a first year student in the School of Education. Tell us about her experience as a prospective student, your perspective as a perspective parent, and now your perspective as a current parent.

All three of my children applied and were accepted at Syracuse, but my two older children, Michael and Jessica, both chose the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

Although each knew how much I would’ve loved them to go to SU, I didn’t want to push them. For that reason, I was elated when Kayla came to us and said she wanted to apply early decision to SU. In high school she did a tremendous amount of volunteer work with children with special needs, so it was no surprise that she wanted to become a student in the School of Education. We still looked at other schools, but the decision was never close.

I’m so happy Kayla is on campus. I feel like it’s created a special bond between us, and I look forward to those phone calls when she needs to ask me the fastest way to get to the Physics Building, or explaining that calling the Hall of Languages “HOL” is much cooler. I’m excited for her to have her own experiences, make new friends and be successful in whatever major within the SOE she decides to pursue.

Tell us about your work with Beacon Realty Properties LLC. How have you seen the firm and the role it plays in Boston change over the past 10 and 20 years?

After graduating from Syracuse, I started working at Beacon Realty Properties LLC, a company my father started in 1959. When my father said I’d be working with him, I thought I’d immediately have a spacious desk with a nameplate overlooking Newbury Street in the Back Bay. Was I wrong! My father envisioned something completely different. He saw me working as a laborer alongside a plumber and carpenter at a commercial building he’d acquired in Newtonville, Massachusetts. All summer long, I hammered, carried, lifted, and spread Neosporin in places I never thought anyone could possibly cut or scrape.

Looking back over 30 years later, I appreciate what I learned that summer and recognize the vital role it’s played in our company’s success. I never considered myself lazy, but being the boss’ son and having to show up to work when I had no place to hide was a truly humbling experience. It reinforced the importance of hard work, responsibility and commitment.

Those invaluable lessons continue to motivate and drive me to succeed. I enjoy waking up every morning and coming into the office. Whether it’s spending time with our employees and real estate brokers, or interactions with our tenants, I look forward to talking with and learning from all of them each day.

Our company specializes in student rentals. With over 400,000 students in the Greater Boston area, you’d think owning and renting apartments would be simple, but tenant demands have changed over the years. Today’s students and young professionals seek more amenities, better customer service and a higher standard of living. My goal is to provide them with quality housing, in desirable neighborhoods, and to exceed their expectations for cleanliness and safety.

How do you stay involved with SU now? Why do you choose to be philanthropic (with both Syracuse and other non-profits)?

While I haven’t stayed as involved with SU since graduating, my daughter’s arrival on campus renewed my interest in the University and the programming taking place there.

I was recently honored to join the Boston Regional Council. In May, the council partnered with SU’s Office of Career Services to host a weeklong immersion program where 16 students visited Boston for a variety of site visits and networking. My wife, Wendy, and I were thrilled to take three students out for dinner, and the evening went so well that I offered one of them a summer internship in my office. It was a pleasure to have him join our team, and I enjoyed teaching him about real estate development and property management. He was ambitious enough to receive his Massachusetts Salesperson’s License and plans on getting a job and renting apartments in Syracuse.

I’ve never really shared my motivation for the countless hours of volunteering and fundraising I’ve proudly done to support charities important to me and my family. You see, I’m a child of a Holocaust survivor, and with that comes a certain responsibility. There’s nothing I could’ve done to prevent what happened during the war, but a number of years ago I decided make a difference and try and make every organization I belong to better.

I look forward to rolling up my sleeves, volunteering and giving back to my community as much as I can. I’ve been on numerous committees at my synagogue, I’ve raised money to benefit senior citizen housing, to send underprivileged children to camp, to deliver food to the poor, honor Massachusetts All Scholastic High School athletes and lobby members of Congress to strengthen the US-Israel relationship.

This is my personal reflection and motivation is for doing what I do.