St. Thomas inducts five into real estate hall of fame

  • Article by: JANET MOORE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2013 - 4:55 PM

Each demonstrated ethics, performance and “a sense of community” in the industry.

Five new members will be inducted into the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame later this week. They blazed their careers in the real estate industry in distinct and lasting ways.

The Hall of Fame was started in 2010 by the Shenehon Center for Real Estate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Inductees are selected by a committee of local real estate professionals for their “outstanding business performance, high standards of ethics and sense of community.”

“They did a great job,” said Herb Tousley, director of the Shenehon Center. “It’s hard to pick people when you get right down to it; a lot of people qualify.”

The inductees, three of whom are deceased, are:

Leonard Bisanz (1918-2002): As president of Bisanz Brothers Development Co., he was responsible for developing many of the homes in St. Paul’s popular Highland Park neighborhood. Known as “Buzz,” Bisanz returned home to St. Paul in the 1940s after serving as a Navy bomber pilot in World War II and set his sights on developing affordable housing in an area that was largely marsh at the time. Along with his siblings, Bisanz brought lumber from dismantled barracks in Georgia, shipped it by rail to the Capitol City and built hundreds of starter homes that were largely purchased by returning servicemen for their budding families.

Helen Brooks: One of the first female leaders in the Twin Cities real estate community, she started her own business called the Brokers’ Exchange before moving to Towle Real Estate Co., now the Minneapolis office of Cassidy Turley. Brooks was only the third woman in the nation to obtain the respected Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) designation. She retired in 2003.

Thomas Crowley: A pre-eminent mortgage broker in the Twin Cities, Crowley has directed countless financing projects in the real estate community, including the original financing for the Mall of America.

M.A. Mortenson Sr. (1905-1986): Golden Valley-based Mortenson Construction, which started from humble beginnings following World War II, has grown into an international enterprise with revenue of more than $2 billion a year. “My father would be greatly honored to be inducted into the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame along with so many accomplished leaders in our business community,” said M.A. “Mort” Mortenson Jr., the company’s chairman. “He started our company at the kitchen table with my mom, a $370 remodeling project, and the courage to persevere. Dad took his great love of construction and faith in the future and began to build the company that today carries his name and the mark of his character.”

Kenneth Stensby (1940-2013): Stensby helped build Bloomington-based United Properties, once a company with four employees, into a booming enterprise with a net worth of more than $100 million. An adventurous spirit and enthusiastic outdoorsman, Stensby died May 5 after a fall while hiking in California’s Yosemite National Park.

Friday’s induction ceremony will include a 5:30 p.m. reception and a 6:30 p.m. program in the auditorium of Schulze Hall at 11th Street and Harmon Place in downtown Minneapolis. The event is open to the public and the cost is $50.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752

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