First Impression

From the Editor: The late NAR president Ira Gribin left a handprint on so many NAR initiatives, from the designation programs to diversity and fair housing education.

May 1, 2007

For me, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® began with the presidency of Ira Gribin. Gribin was inaugurated at the November 1988 convention in San Francisco, where I began my career with NAR. I remember him as an outspoken president, sometimes cantankerous. When he died in March at the age of 86, the association lost a charismatic leader.

Like a prodding father, Gribin loved the association enough to want to change it. He was involved in the passage of the 1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act, which extended protections to people with disabilities and families with children.

As president, he advocated for greater diversity within the leadership ranks. And after his term, he continued to hold sway, nudging promising leaders, including the association’s first female president, Dorcas Helfant, toward the presidency.

Gribin marveled at how far real estate had taken a Jewish kid from New York. He started in the real estate business after relocating to southern California. He and partner Lou von Dyl founded a company in 1950 that grew to 16 offices. Before breaking into the leadership ranks of the association, he was known as a pioneering educator within the National Institute of Real Estate Brokers, forerunner to today’s Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers

Despite his success, Gribin never stopped focusing his attention on helping others on to the housing ladder. It was a metaphor he used often during his presidency to explain the social benefits and wealth-building power of real estate for those who made the first rung of the ladder—first-time home ownership.

His perspective came partly from his own experience. “When you’re living in apartments, as I did when I was a kid, you don’t even know your neighbors,” Gribin recalled in a 2006 interview with a REALTOR® Magazine writer.

During Gribin’s presidency, many potential home owners couldn’t make that first rung. Existing-home sales declined by more than half a million in 1989 and continued to decline for two more years. Gribin advocated for an increase in FHA loan limits and for programs such as mortgage revenue bonds to make housing more affordable.

After his presidency, he continued his involvement in affordable housing, serving as a director of the Southern California Housing Development Corp. (now known as National Community Renaissance in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.)

NAR has made considerable progress in the 18 years since Gribin was president, yet I see his handprint on so many NAR initiatives, from the designation programs to diversity and fair housing education to the Housing Opportunity Program. Although I never knew Gribin personally, it’s a measure of his leadership to say he helped give shape and purpose to my work as a young editor back in 1989—purpose that has stayed with me to this day.

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Stacey Moncrieff

Stacey is executive editor of publications for the National Association of REALTORS® and editor in chief of REALTOR® Magazine.