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Elon parents endow professorship in entrepreneurship

The generous gift from Sheldon and Christy Gordon will endow a professorship in entrepreneurship in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

Sheldon and Christy Gordon of North Palm Beach, Fla., have made a generous gift to endow a professorship in entrepreneurship in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

Christy and Sheldon Gordon P'16 '19

The Sheldon and Christine Gordon Endowed Professorship in Entrepreneurship will enhance Elon’s efforts to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

The Gordons are members of Elon’s Parents Council and have been generous supporters of scholarships and other university priorities. Their daughter Martine is a 2016 Elon alumna, and their daughter Katie is an Elon sophomore.

“We are grateful to Sheldon and Christy Gordon for their generosity and for recognizing the importance of establishing endowments to support faculty scholarship and development, which are essential to building a world-class academic program at Elon,” said President Leo M. Lambert. “The influence of the Gordon Professorship will be felt for years to come by helping to attract outstanding faculty scholars to our entrepreneurship program.”

Sheldon Gordon is widely recognized as one of the most successful commercial real estate developers in the nation. During a real estate career spanning close to four decades, Gordon has helped set the standard for designing and creating innovative mixed-use commercial development. Among his projects are The Beverly Center in Los Angeles and The Forum Shops in Las Vegas. Christy Gordon has been a successful interior designer for the past 30 years and serves in leadership roles on many boards and committees, including The Kennedy Center’s National Committee for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

The Gordons made their gift because they were inspired by the strong culture of entrepreneurship that exists in the Love School of Business, which houses the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and in the School of Communications, where Martine Gordon was a student.

“I think the professorship is a great opportunity for Elon because of what’s happening in the university’s business and communications schools,” Gordon said. “All of the pieces are there.”

He said he hopes the professorship will help cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset among all Elon students.

“Entrepreneurship is the way of the world and the future,” Gordon said. “It’s through the concept of entrepreneurship that we’re going to solve some of our country’s biggest problem, including bringing jobs back. The way you’re going to bring jobs back is by creating new businesses.”

Building a premier entrepreneurship program

Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, said the Sheldon and Christine Gordon Endowed Professorship represents an important step toward building a premier entrepreneurship program in the Love School of Business.

“We thank the Gordons for their leadership and vision for educating future generations of entrepreneurial thinkers at Elon,” Tadepalli said. “This professorship will be awarded to an individual for whom teaching and mentoring of our students is front and center.”

Tadepalli said the professorship will be an important component of Elon’s focus on integrating entrepreneurship and design thinking into academic programs across the university. Design thinking is a creative, solutions-based process that brings together individuals from different perspectives to design, test and create meaningful solutions to real-world problems. This innovative process is gaining attention in business and education.

“The Sheldon and Christine Gordon Professor will work across the entire Love School of Business to teach students to think like entrepreneurs using design thinking skills,” Tadepalli said. “It’s important for our students to learn design thinking and to be able to show companies that they understand their customers and can build products and services around the customers’ needs and then execute those services. That’s what design thinking is all about.

“Sheldon Gordon has been tending to his customers’ needs and offering them innovative solutions his entire career,” Tadepalli said. “He’s been practicing design thinking before it was even called design thinking.”

Learning from failure

Born in Chicago, Sheldon Gordon began working as a runner on the Chicago Board of Trade when he was 15. After earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Gordon went on to earn a law degree in 1955 from Northwestern University. He joined the Wall Street banking and investment firm of Bear Stearns and Company, where he specialized in international trade.

Before long, Gordon realized he was ready for a change. He hopped in his 1956 Pontiac and drove to San Francisco to start over. It was 1957 and Gordon was nearly penniless. He arrived in the Bay Area with $200 to his name.

“I had had a major failure and lost a lot of money and from that failure, I decided I was going forward and not backwards,” Gordon recalled. “I walked into a real estate office in San Francisco and asked for a job. It was the only thing I could think of to do.”

After the manager told him he was overqualified, Gordon persisted. “I told him I’d work for $400 a month as a draw against future commissions. And that’s how I started.”

Through hard work and dedication, Gordon built a reputation for developing successful shopping centers throughout the Bay Area. In 1983, he formed the Gordon Group, which specializes in creating and developing unique entertainment-oriented retail properties across the globe. The company developed the Kahala Mall and Pearlridge Center in Hawaii, The San Francisco Centre, The Beverly Center in Los Angeles and The Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas. The Forum Shops was the first center in Las Vegas to feature premier restaurants and elite international fashion designers. Gordon also restored and redeveloped the space underneath the 59th Street Bridge known as Bridgemarket in New York City.

Gordon is quick to acknowledge that his many successes would not have been possible without a few failures along the way.

“I think the greatest thing you can teach people is how to deal with failure,” Gordon said. “You learn more from failure than you do from success. I have failed a number of times and you just have to have the gumption and guts and the will to bounce back and fix the problems and go on to the next one.

“One failure doesn’t knock you out of the box, it gives you an opportunity to focus on something else and to go for it,” Gordon said. “I started with nothing and I talked my way into starting a business. There’s a real opportunity and need for that, and I think that’s the future of America.”

The Gordons believe strongly in serving their community. During the past 25 years, Sheldon Gordon has served on numerous boards, including the Oversight Committee for the Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles; The Los Angeles County Music Center Board of Directors and MOMA Los Angeles during its conceptual development; The Greenwich Boys & Girls Club; The Inger Foundation for Cancer Research and Greenwich Academy.

Christy Gordon earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has served as former chairman of the advisory board and founder of the Greenwich Hospital Center for Integrative Medicine, which was the first such community facility in the United States. She is the past founder and chairman of the board of directors of The Inger Foundation.

Jaleh Hagigh,
9/28/2016 3:05 PM