Samuel Tak Lee '62, SM '64

Samuel Tak Lee '62, SM '64 (standing, left) and MIT President L. Rafael Reif look on as Lee's son, Samathur Li, and MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz sign documents related to Lee's $118 million gift to MIT. Image: Bryce Vickmark

Samuel Tak Lee '62, SM '64 (standing, left) and MIT President L. Rafael Reif look on as Lee's son, Samathur Li, and MIT Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz sign documents related to Lee's $118 million gift to MIT. Image: Bryce Vickmark


$118M gift from MIT alumnus will advance socially responsible and sustainable real estate development.

MIT has received one of the largest gifts in its history, from alumnus Samuel Tak Lee ’62, SM ’64, to establish a real estate entrepreneurship lab that will promote social responsibility among entrepreneurs and academics in the real estate profession worldwide, with a particular focus on China. The gift will fund fellowships to attract both U.S. and international students; will support research on sustainable real estate development and global urbanization; and will make the lab’s curriculum available online to learners worldwide via MITx.

The $118 million gift was formalized yesterday at a signing ceremony at MIT, attended by Lee; his son, Samathur Li; MIT President L. Rafael Reif; Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz; Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson; and Vice President for Resource Development Julie Lucas. In recognition of Lee’s substantial and ongoing commitment to the Institute, Building 9, home to the MIT Center for Real Estate, will be named the Samuel Tak Lee Building.

“With this gift, Sam Lee aims to tap the transformative power of real estate to shape the built environment, and thereby to shape society and culture, to enrich our shared civic life, to increase our harmony with nature — in short, to make a significant positive impact on the world,” Reif says. “As MIT strives to work for the betterment of humankind, Sam’s generosity dramatically increases our capacity to create and inspire far-reaching positive change. We are deeply grateful for the vision and partnership of the Lee family, and for the trust they have placed in MIT.”

Lee says his gift was motivated by a desire to design a program with MIT that tightly ties the study of real estate to 21st-century realities such as land reform, environmental challenges, burgeoning populations, and an evolving global economy.

“This is a period of tremendous change and opportunity for entrepreneurs in China and around the world,” Lee says. “By cultivating a long-term perspective, real estate professionals can create even greater value for themselves and for society based on responsible, sustainable strategies. I am eager to connect ambitious, talented students with the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed.”

The new Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab will be housed in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and the Center for Real Estate (CRE). The CRE investigates the real estate transaction from initial concept to market reality through a cross-disciplinary lens, including design, urban planning, environmental studies, construction, management, economics, finance, policy and regulation, and the law. MIT is a pioneer in the study of real estate, becoming the first university to offer a Master of Science degree in real estate development in 1983.

“Real estate is inherently interdisciplinary, and so is the culture of MIT,” Grimson says. “Whether turning its attention to the role of real estate in fostering prosperity, the design of cities, or the consumption of energy, this new lab will be strengthened by interactions with departments and programs across MIT.”

The lab’s professors and students, Grimson says, will seek partners within the School of Architecture and Planning — such as the Center for Advanced Urbanism, the Media Lab, and the Building Technology Program — as well as from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and from such MIT departments as civil and environmental engineering, materials science and engineering, economics, anthropology, and others that share an interest in responsible real estate development.

While preliminary work with respect to the Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab will begin immediately, formal program activities will commence in the 2015-16 academic year under the leadership of an endowed faculty chair and an administrative director, still to be announced. The gift will also establish a “Think Tank” and a research fund to ensure MIT’s continued commitment to research and thought leadership in sustainable and socially responsible real estate development and global urbanization. Some of the topics and projects that the lab will focus on include: development and urbanization through private action and entrepreneurship; urban resilience and adaptation; land-use reform regulations and codes; new construction materials; data and technology; affordable housing; and environmental aspects of urban growth and development.

According to Albert Saiz, the director of the MIT Center for Real Estate, the lab will explore questions of social responsibility — ranging from the individual’s obligations to society to the impact of the built environment on the natural environment — that are essential to how CRE prepares its students to operate in a complex global market.

“We want our graduates to become catalysts for profitable development around the world,” says Saiz, who is the Daniel Rose Associate Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate. “At the same time, we believe the real estate profession must develop nuanced solutions to global concerns such as environmental change, population growth, and transforming economies.”

The Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab will attract top research talent from around MIT and beyond, Saiz notes. “The lab’s graduate students, visiting scholars, and practitioners will also become a leading global community for the development of successful models of sustainable real estate,” he says. “And the lab’s educational program will inspire a new generation of socially conscious and knowledgeable citizens and entrepreneurs.”

Accordingly, the lab will emphasize both the practical — for example, developing new case studies, the major component of a CRE and DUSP education — and the global, focusing on the rapidly changing real estate practice in China.

“Deepening our understanding of development in China through the Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab has the potential to inform our broader outlook on urbanization, city planning, and design,” says Eran Ben-Joseph, professor and head of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Ben-Joseph says that DUSP’s extensive history in China — such as the Beijing Urban Design Studio, a summer exchange between MIT and Tsinghua University that dates back to 1984 — will give the lab a running start.

“The issues that create complexity in Chinese real estate, such as migration, land ownership, and environmental impacts, make it a fertile area for research and practice,” Ben-Joseph says. “Lessons learned from China can serve as models worldwide.”

The gift will provide fellowships to attract graduate students of diverse geographic, social, and economic origins to study real estate entrepreneurship on MIT’s campus, with an emphasis on students from China. And MITx will share the lab’s curriculum with a global audience by translating its content to massive open online courses.

“Throughout China — and all over the world — there are talented young people with a strong capacity to take individual initiative,” Lee says. “My hope is that by offering them MIT-level tools and perspectives, the lab will empower students from all backgrounds to take their place among the next generation of global real estate entrepreneurs.”

Lee received two degrees from MIT: a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a master’s degree in 1964, both in civil and environmental engineering. After graduating from MIT, he joined Prudential Enterprise, a Hong Kong–based real estate company founded by his father and a cousin. Under Lee’s leadership in the following decades, Prudential has grown into a multinational firm with significant holdings in Hong Kong, England, Japan, Switzerland, and Singapore. Lee is widely known for his 1994 acquisition and development of the Langham Estate in London’s West End, approximately 14 acres of commercial space that is now a major business and shopping destination.

Sarah Abrams MSRED 85


Sarah K. Abrams received her Master of Science in Real Estate Development from the MIT Center for Real Estate in 1985. She is now President of Fidelity Real Estate Company, a division of Fidelity Investments responsible for providing the full range of corporate real estate services to Fidelity’s business units both nationally and internationally – (location/portfolio strategy, acquisitions/ dispositions, design/construction and facility/property management). In that capacity she oversees a portfolio in excess of 10 million square feet, including four mission critical data centers, with an annual operating budget over $400M and annual capital budgets ranging from $50-$500M. After 14 years with Fidelity, she will be leaving this summer to pursue new career opportunities.

Twenty-five years ago the MIT Center for Real Estate (MIT/CRE) opened its doors to offer its first Master of Science in Real Estate Development. Just before then, Sarah Abrams (MSRED’85) was in law school at Cornell with the intention of becoming a real estate lawyer.

“I enjoyed law school but realized during the summers when I was working that I preferred the business side of real estate. During my third year, the Wall Street Journal had a real estate column on Thursdays and at the bottom of the column one day were the words ‘MIT is starting the first master’s program in real estate development in the country. Tuition is $14,000.’ It was very intriguing so when I was in Boston interviewing with law firms I went over to the Center – which was just a little office at the time – and picked up the brochure. After reading it I decided to apply.”

For Abrams, the experience of being part of the first graduating class at MIT/CRE was exciting. She recounts, “I was very aware – as I think we all were – that this was something completely new… not just for MIT but for the entire real estate industry. We wanted it to be important twenty years from then.”

The opportunity of being in the first class 25 years ago – “the pioneering class,” as Abrams calls it – was extraordinary. The students were connected with people such as Hank Spaulding, Larry Bacow, Bill Wheaton and Gary Hack, “people who were real leaders in their fields.”

The Center for Real Estate celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year. Abrams reflects, “the degree I received from the Center for Real Estate provides me with great credibility wherever I go in the world. It was that degree that made it possible for me to get my first real estate development job and it provided me with an opportunity to meet some terrific people who have become and remain close friends and business partners.”

In return, Abrams has given consistently to MIT/CRE for the past 25 years through both the New Visions Fund and the CRE Alumni Fund for Excellence.

“MIT had a big impact on me in terms of being able to achieve what I’ve achieved professionally. As a result, I feel I owe the School a debt for that. This is one way that I can be clear about how I valued my time there.”

Abrams gained an understanding of the importance of philanthropy from her parents. “I grew up in a home where my parents always set an example of giving back. There was a view that sharing what you had with others was a fundamental value; that supporting things in the community and academic institutions was important and expected.

This is something that I really believe – of those to whom much is given, much is expected. I had a lot of opportunities in life having a family that was intact and cared about me, stressed education, etc. I have had advantages in my life that other people don’t have. That comes with an obligation and a responsibility to give back.”

In addition to her philanthropy to the Center for Real Estate, Abrams also has continued to be engaged with the Center’s activities since her graduation. She led the alumni association for a year, she co-taught a law course in the nineties, and now she is a regular guest lecturer in Gloria Schuck’s “Leadership in Real Estate” course, which she has done for many years.

Gloria Schuck commented, “Each year the students have a long conversation with Sarah about leadership. They describe Sarah as ‘strong and brilliant, down to earth, unpretentious, no nonsense, nice and conveys a strength and confidence, very approachable, but clearly in charge, and a great mentor.’ Sarah makes a difference.”

“Sarah gives back;” Schuck continues, “she generously shares her experiences and insights with the students, and makes ‘leadership’ live. We are so grateful.”

Abrams’s advice to alumni is “stay connected to the Center. Remember that you are a representative of a great program and university and always put your best foot forward in everything you do.”

Marion Cunningham, managing director of the Center for Real Estate, said of Abrams, “Sarah gives her time to the MSRED students, modeling leadership and reaching out as a leader, and she provides financial support. Her dollars help us to positively impact the real estate industry in a variety of ways.”

Many students thank Abrams for staying involved with the MIT/CRE each year for the insights she shares with them. One student wrote, “Sarah said that you must always be authentic. I’ve had this image of what a leader is buried in my head. Some preconceived idea that I’ve subconsciously been comparing myself to and falling short every time. I found her simple advice to be extremely powerful and would say I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment after she gave it. That’s leadership ‘development’!

“I finally understood that the idea is not to try to change to become like someone else, the idea is simply to improve and enhance who you already are. Her words on authenticity were some of the most uplifting words I’ve heard in a long time. They felt freeing to me and gave me hope. The opportunities to lead exist every day and in every interaction. Logically, I understand all of this, but for the first time I actually feel it, too.”

“I am very conscious,” says Abrams, “of the fact that success is not an individual achievement. The success I have had in life is due to the aggregation of many opportunities and advantages that I have had in life. MIT was one of those opportunities that had a huge impact on my professional competence and ultimate success. I believe people are successful because they see even ordinary things as opportunities and make the most of opportunities. Over time these are cumulative and allow them to find success.”

For Abrams, the most satisfaction she gets from her work comes from building people not buildings. “The thing that is just as exciting to me as seeing a building get built is working with people to help them become everything they can be and achieve everything they want to achieve.

"My advice to graduates is: Try and see in people what they are not yet capable of seeing in themselves. Put them in positions that play to strengths and help them gain confidence. They will blossom. That is a good definition of success: being able to turn the potential you see in people into reality."

Hamid Moghadam '77, SM '78


A Generous Cornerstone Pledge for the Real Estate Relocation

Last year, to seed the fundraising effort of the MIT Center for Real Estate – a 25th anniversary drive to underwrite the cost of the Center’s impending relocation to Building 9, in the heart of SA+P – MIT alumnus Hamid Moghadam ('77, SM'78) launched a challenge to get the enterprise underway, inspiring alumni/ae and friends to give $1M – and he would match it.

His generosity led to many more gifts from alumni of the Center's Master of Science in Real Estate Development program, ultimately exceeding the challenge. Those loyal alumni are indicated on this year’s list of donors, opposite, and we are deeply grateful for their continued largesse. But we also felt it appropriate to give special attention here, and particular thanks, to Mr. Moghadam.

'Hamid is one of the leaders of the entire real estate industry,' says Center Chairman Tony Ciochetti, 'so we are especially pleased to acknowledge his long-standing support of the Center, both domestically and abroad. His generous backing on this particular effort gives us a great opportunity to more closely align our operations with the other divisions of the School of Architecture + Planning.'

'It is a pleasure to support this important campaign for space,' says Moghadam. 'The MIT Center has established a solid reputation for real estate education over the years, and this new space will allow it to grow and develop still further over time.'


Moghadam is chairman and co-CEO of the newly formed Prologis, Incorporated in San Francisco. He was previously chairman of the board and CEO of AMB Property Corporation, which he founded in 1983. He has served as chairman of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts and the Real Estate Investment Trust Political Action Committee, and is a founding member of the Real Estate Roundtable.

Masanori Nagashima MArch’76

Mr. Masanori Nagashima and former Dean Bill Mitchell at MIT. Image: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mr. Masanori Nagashima and former Dean Bill Mitchell at MIT.
Image: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Pioneering Computer-Aided Design

Masanori Nagashima MArch’76 is a major donor to the School of Architecture + Planning, having established a fund in the Media Lab for graduate student financial support and having named the Masanori Nagashima Conference Room in the new Media Lab Complex. He is Chairman of Informatix, a company that develops software for architectural, engineering, construction and facility management industries. Below, a brief Q&A about his experience at MIT and after:

Why did you decide to study at MIT’s School of Architecture + Planning?

Around 40 years ago, I was a student studying architecture at the University of Tokyo in Japan. Architecture and the building industry were exciting fields to work on around that period, because we had to build so many cities from scratch, such as Tokyo, after the World War II.

Around that time, computer itself was not popular. But I developed an interest in computers for architectural design. People did not have an adequate idea of what computers could do. MIT was the famous engineering school in USA, and I got a strong impression that I could study CAD in architectural design at MIT. I therefore submitted the application for the admission and I was fortunately accepted for September 1974.

When I arrived at the Department of Architecture, I was puzzled that there were no CAD systems in the design studio there. Around that time, it was very difficult to get information about MIT from the remote place namely in Japan, since we did not have tools like the Internet. However, I soon found the MIT Architecture Machine Group (AMG) and met Professor Nicholas Negroponte. Later I asked Nicholas to supervise my thesis. He kindly accepted me and my thesis centered on CAD for the MArch degree.

Who and what was memorable about SA+P?

Professor Nicholas Negroponte is the person I have to list first. I was very impressed with his way of thinking when it comes to what is most important in each circumstance. I learned from him that it is important to look at the various aspects of the subject, and to ask effective questions.

At AMG I was in the project team called “Architecture - by - Yourself” led by Guy Weinzapfel, who gave attentive guidance. There were also so many capable and attractive people: Andy Lippman, Chris Herot, Mike Miller, Seth Steinberg and so on. In 1975 John Habraken became the head of the Department of Architecture. I knew his name when I studied at the University of Tokyo a few years before. He was a well-known figure for the systems building design even in Japan. I really enjoyed attending his class.

In order to study on computers, I took some classes at the Sloan School of Management. I was deeply impressed by professors John Donovan and Stuart Madnick. Their lectures were wonderful. Professor Donovan said (as far as I remember) that ‘Computer Science is quite different from the other Natural Sciences. Major ones are Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc., and their aim is to explore the Truth. But with Computer Science we are not finding out the Truth. Computing is the Science of Action.’

Throughout your life – and especially as Chairman of Informatix – what have been your successes?

Nicholas Negroponte provided me a job as a technical assistant at AMG from June 1976 for four months. Nicholas wrote about this in the Architecture Machinations (May 23, 1976 issue), using my nickname MAS: ‘MAS’s four month appointment should lead to one of the most handsome computer-aided architecture packages around. We all recognize MAS’s super-human programming abilities and can look forward to the results with enthusiasm. …’

In late 1976, I moved from Cambridge MA to Cambridge UK. I was in the development team at Applied Research of Cambridge Ltd (ARC). We produced the commercial CAD software called General Drafting System (GDS) in 1980. In October 1981, I came back to Japan to establish a company selling GDS in Japan. This is the origin of Informatix Inc. GDS was sold not only in the UK and Japan, but also worldwide including in the US.

GDS was used by large engineering companies as well as by architects including I.M.Pei and John Burgee with Philip Johnson. In the Boston area, GDS was adopted for some large projects including Boston’s ‘BIG DIG’. In Japan, GDS was used to design many buildings including the NEC Headquarter Building and Ebisu Garden Place. GDS also began to be used as a Geographic Information System (GIS), since it can efficiently handle so much graphic data.

At Informatix, we are doing nearly 200 projects every year nowadays. We have thousands of valuable customers for CAD and GIS. They are using our system every day and I am proud to serve them with our systems.

What led you to make your generous gift to SA+P? Why did you choose to give for graduate financial support?

As I mentioned earlier, I studied architecture then switched to computing because I came across the Architecture Machine Group at MIT. My time at MIT is so-to-speak an epoch-making period in my life. I therefore want to help open up this sort of opportunity for students to have the similar exciting experience that I had there some time ago!

What is your advice for new graduates?

When I arrived at MIT in 1974, I found MIT very active and exciting. I soon realized this is because the people over there are active and doing exciting things. I hope that new graduates will keep on trying what they want to accomplish, since they learned at MIT how to cope with problems to be solved. I do hope that they will continue to come up with more innovative solutions.