Gerry Kostelny ’72: Successful Real Estate Developer and ATO Team Leader

kostelnyGerry Kostelny: Successful Real Estate Developer and ATO Team Leader

Gerry Kostelny (Gamma Zeta ’72) has been involved in the commercial real estate business throughout his career. He is the founder and CEO of InSite Real Estate, a national owner, developer, and operator of commercial investment real estate.

Tell us about your family.
I have been married to my wife, Carolyn, who plays an active role in our company, for 20 years and have 5 children: Katie – Iowa ’03, a real estate lawyer for our company; Dan – Illinois Gamma Zeta ’05, a member of our company’s industrial property team; Carrie – Illinois Gamma Phi Beta ’07, a lawyer for the Intercontinental Exchange; Tom – Illinois Delta Tau Delta ’12, a member of our company’s retail property team; and Elizabeth – a high school sophomore at Benet Academy.

What was the impact of your leadership as Worthy Master on the chapter?
I served Spring ’73 – Fall ’74. Those were tumultuous years for the country and directly affected college-aged people – the last military draft, the end of the Vietnam War, the gas shortage, Watergate, Roe v. Wade, and a slumping economy. The Illinois campus saw everything from riots on Green Street to protest the war one year to a 1,000-person “streak” on the Quad to celebrate Spring the next year. Our chapter reflected these times. There were significant issues we had to address during this time – membership recruitment, physical plant improvements, and drug use among the most prominent. House Committee put together a plan to address the issues, built consensus with the members, and, as a chapter, we got it done. Sure, there were rough spots. However, we used the foundation provided by the preceding classes to build an even stronger foundation for the succeeding classes – and they responded in turn.

What was the impact on your own life, serving as Worthy Master?
Obviously, having the opportunity to serve as Worthy Master helped develop my leadership skills. Gamma Zeta has always had many strong personalities and my years there were no exception. Our initiatives were not always popular with our members and, at times, there was open disagreement. Working together to achieve an over-reaching goal despite existing differences is something that I first learned as Worthy Master and use regularly in my business and other activities.

You seem to be a natural leader. As a leader, what do you find is most important in effectively leading others?
A member of the ATO national staff once told me “people support what they create.” Those words have resonated with me since and it seems that when heeded, the best outcomes are achieved. It’s important for a team to reach consensus on a vision for what it wants to achieve – it’s a leader’s job to help shape that vision. Then, action must be taken by team members to achieve the vision – it’s a leader’s job to formulate and guide that action. The more that team members participate in the formulation of the vision, the more they will participate in the execution of the action.

What impact did ATO have on your life?
Gamma Zeta traditionally has attracted bright, talented, and highly motivated guys who are winners. The brothers I lived with were an incredibly diverse group: rural, suburban, and city kids who majored in agriculture, engineering, business, communications, and life sciences. Their Gamma Zeta years laid the foundations for outstanding careers as lawyers, doctors, investment bankers, professional athletes, businessmen, teachers, politicians, entertainers, and researchers. Each made a difference in their chosen field. Watching them work, compete, and cooperate and seeing the effort they made to achieve their objectives in life caused me to raise my game. I am very proud that I am a Gamma Zeta and can call each of them my brother.

What have you found is important for handling the challenges of the dynamic changes of today?
Someone once said, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Yes, much has changed over the years, but a person’s basic values are the constant to meet the challenges of today. I think the ideals set forth by our fraternity significantly contribute to the basic values that guide each of us.

What have you found makes for success?
Obviously, there are many components of “success.” I think there are two that seem to apply to every successful person I know: focus and drive. Few people are good at everything. Find something you enjoy and are proficient at, become the best you can be at it, and focus on it to the exclusion of competing interests. That said, drive – the unrelenting effort in good times and bad to meet your objective – may be the single most important component of success. In most cases, drive trumps even raw talent.

What advice do you have for today’s undergraduates?
First, enjoy your college experience – it’s a special time of your life; but, make the most of it – accomplish your academic objectives, explore different interests, meet people, and be an active participant, not an observer.

What’s a particularly good memory from your Gamma Zeta days?
There are so many stories that I remember that it is impossible to single one out. The fact is, there are some “Gamma Zeta stories” that have occurred in the past few years that rival those of our college days!

Why is it important that Gamma Zeta be strong for today and tomorrow?
I was taught that you leave your campsite better than you found it. Others left us a fraternity that helped positively shape our lives and enable us to achieve our objectives and contribute to our families and communities. It’s our responsibility to provide an even better foundation for others who are needed to make similar contributions.

Reconnect with Gerry at gkostelny@insiterealestate.com.

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