Lecture series to honor former Smeal faculty member Austin Jaffe

Lynn Jaffe, left, and her children, Alex, second from right, and Roxanne, right, have honored the memory of their husband and father, Austin Jaffe, with the Austin J. Jaffe Real Estate Lecture Series. Austin, who retired in 2017 after a nearly 40-year career at Penn State, died unexpectedly in May 2019. Credit: Provided by the Jaffe familyAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Austin Jaffe’s love for the scholarly pursuit of real estate was surpassed only by his love for his family, including his wife, Lynn, and their two children: Alexander "Alex," a Schreyer Scholar and 2008 finance graduate, and Roxanne.

Jaffe, who retired in 2017 after a nearly 40-year career at Penn State, was the associate dean for international programs at the Smeal College of Business, the Philip H. Sieg Professor of Business Administration and the associate director of the Institute for Real Estate Studies (IRES). Previously, he served as chair of the Department of Insurance and Real Estate, now the Department of Risk Management. 

After Jaffe died unexpectedly in May 2019, his family chose to honor his legacy by combining memorial gifts with their own private commitment to endow the Austin J. Jaffe Real Estate Lecture Series with a $100,000 endowment. The series will bring leading scholars to campus to discuss research and ideas relevant to the field of real estate and to interact primarily with doctoral students and faculty.

As a college student at the University of Illinois, Jaffe spent a semester abroad in Finland, which his wife said ignited a lifelong love of travel. Lynn, who earned a master of education degree from Penn State in 2001, said that Jaffe enjoyed the opportunity to go on sabbatical and that she and their children would often travel with him, sometimes spending six months to a year immersed in a foreign country while he taught or conducted research.

“He loved the opportunity to present his work or teach at foreign universities, and we were so fortunate to be able to share that together as a family,” she said.

Jaffe was widely considered a real estate authority throughout the world, speaking on subjects such as property rights issues and real estate financial analysis at more than 100 institutions in more than 35 countries. He was the author or co-author of 14 books, and more than 75 articles in academic and professional journals.

Reflecting the importance Jaffe placed on international experiences for students and faculty, to the extent possible, the lecture series will have an international focus at least once every three years.

Lynn said that Jaffe believed he had the world’s best job, in part because it offered him the flexibility to spend time with their children.

“Austin was so proud of Alex and Roxanne,” she said. “He traveled all over to watch them compete in sports. He even saved reams and reams of data about their games and their positions, newspaper stories from their college years and more. He certainly enjoyed teaching and conducting research, but his joy was really in watching our kids grow and become successful adults.”

Dean Charles H. Whiteman remembers Jaffe fondly.

“Austin was a wonderful colleague and friend,” he said. “His passion for his work was clear, and his teaching and research efforts had a tremendous impact on our real estate program’s success. I am grateful to his wife, Lynn, and their children, Alex and Roxanne, for such a meaningful memorial.”

The college received a number of memorial gifts after Jaffe died. As Lynn considered not only how those gifts could be used but also how she, Alex and Roxanne could deepen Jaffe’s Penn State legacy with a gift of their own, she worked closely with Brent Ambrose, Jason and Julie Borrelli Faculty Chair in Real Estate and director of the Institute for Real Estate Studies, and Michelle Houser, senior director of development and alumni relations to create and endow the lecture.

“The lecture series touches on the things that were really important to Austin: real estate, an international component, a focus on graduate students. It’s just really special that we could do this for him,” Lynn said.

Houser said it was important to the entire Smeal leadership team that they find the right way to honor Jaffe’s legacy.

“It was a privilege to work with the Jaffe family on this gift to memorialize Austin,” Houser said. “He was a beloved colleague and friend to many people in the Smeal community, and there’s no better way to ensure that his legacy as a scholar and educator live on.”

The lecture’s first speaker will be Abdullah Yavas, Robert E. Wangard Real Estate Chair at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. Previously he was the Elliott Professor of Business Administration and the research director of the Institute for Real Estate Studies at Smeal. Yavas has authored or co-authored more than 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals on real-estate, finance and economics.

Whiteman announced the lecture series at the IRES fall board meeting on Oct. 6.

Ambrose remembers Jaffe for his commitment to providing a world-class educational experience for students, advising students, and helping them understand the core tenets and principles of real estate economics and finance.

“Through this lecture series, we’ll bring leading real estate scholars from around the world to Penn State to share their knowledge and expertise with our students — just as Austin did,” he said.

Lynn said she hopes the lecture series helps to perpetuate Jaffe’s legacy.

“Austin enjoyed celebrating the success of former students who kept in touch over the years. I hope, in some small way, he continues to make a difference at Penn State through this lecture series,” Lynn said.

Gifts to support the Austin Jaffe Real Estate Lecture Series 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 impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated October 28, 2020