Alumni couple establishes chair in real estate at Smeal College of Business

Jason and Julie Borrelli make a $2 million commitment to endow new faculty position

Penn State alumni Jason and Julie Borrelli have made a commitment to Penn State to endow the Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate in the Smeal College of Business. Credit: ProvidedAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Although Jason Borrelli graduated from Penn State with a degree in aerospace engineering in 1994, it did not take long for him to realize that his true calling was in real estate.

Over time, he made a name for himself in the field and he was subsequently invited to join the Smeal College of Business Real Estate Advisory Board in 2016.

Recognizing the importance of real estate in their lives, Borrelli and his wife, Julie, a fellow 1994 Penn State graduate with a degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management, recently made a $2 million commitment to Penn State to endow the Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate.

“The thing that has become quite clear to me during my time with the board is the importance of endowed faculty positions,” Jason Borrelli said. “Without these positions, there will always be a risk that another school will come in and recruit your top talent away. I thought ‘If that happens, how would we ever create the reputation or prestige around the program that it deserves?'”

The Borrellis, who met as juniors, were quick to share that Penn State is at the epicenter of their life together.

Julie Borrelli comes from a Penn State family. Her father, Jeff, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Penn State in 1967, and her aunt also is a Penn State graduate. While her parents shared their love for Penn State with their daughter, she was determined to blaze her own trail when choosing a college. Then a chance encounter during a college-visitation weekend changed everything.

“I met Joe Paterno at an event with my parents," Julie Borrelli said. "As we were talking, I let him know that I thought Penn State was far too big for me. He spent the next 15 minutes telling me about how Penn State is tucked inside this amazing valley and how it really has a small-school feel. I decided to take a chance on Penn State and found that he was right."

Jason Borrelli was initially resistant to the idea of attending Penn State as well. Although his mother, Carol, graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1969, he considered himself a “Pittsburgh guy.” With plans to study aerospace engineering, he eventually recognized the advantages of a Penn State degree. He went on to earn an MBA from Penn State in 2006.

A year after the Borrellis moved to Washington, D.C., Julie Borrelli’s father offered them both work with his real-estate firm in suburban Philadelphia. Julie Borrelli joined the marketing team, while her husband worked in development/construction.

Jason Borrelli said that while they both have worked hard, luck and circumstance have also led the couple to where they are today.

“If we hadn’t both come to Penn State, if I hadn’t met Julie, I wouldn’t have met her dad or had this rewarding and successful career in real estate. Julie and I both recognize the opportunities this field has given to us and are so grateful that it allows us to give something back to Penn State,” he said.

Charles H. Whiteman, John and Becky Surma Dean, praised the Borrellis’ commitment to Smeal.

“The Borrellis are among our most generous donors in the ‘Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence’ fundraising campaign and I am grateful for their leadership and passion for Penn State, the Smeal College, and especially our real estate program,” Whiteman said. “Endowed faculty positions, like the Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate, can truly transform the education we offer our students by helping us build our world-class faculty.”

Real estate is currently one of three options for risk management majors at Smeal, but the Real Estate Advisory Board and Brent Ambrose, Smeal Professor of Real Estate and director of the Institute for Real Estate Studies at Penn State, are hoping to change that.

“I wanted to make this gift to give Brent the assurance that there’s alumni support behind Smeal’s real estate program and behind the drive to offer it as a stand-alone major,” Jason Borrelli said.

Ambrose acknowledged the importance of faculty support to the long-term success of the real estate program.

“Endowed chairs help attract and retain the best faculty,” he said. “The Borrellis’ gift will aid faculty in conducting research and, more importantly, transferring the knowledge created by that research to the classroom and to society at large.”

Julie Borrelli said that watching her parents give back to Penn State has influenced the approach she and her husband have taken with their own philanthropy.

“It’s so joyful to me to be able to give back to Penn State,” she said. “To come in and create something that can have such an impact and such longevity is a beautiful thing.”

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hard-working students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and affecting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated July 18, 2019