Letter: Gratitude for Jay Kislak

October 14, 2018
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The real estate and philanthropy world lost an icon last week. Jay Kislak, the chairman of The Kislak Company, passed away in Miami at the age of 96. In 2006 the Kislak Family Foundation celebrated its 100th anniversary by making a transformative gift to Monmouth University to rename its real estate institute, the Kislak Real Estate Institute at Monmouth University. That major gift enabled Monmouth University to begin offering undergraduate and graduate students a Concentration in Real Estate. Today, there are hundreds of students and graduates of the Kislak Real Estate Institute in the real estate industry.

Jay Kislak was not just a highly successful business person. He was also a naval aviator in World War II, a world traveler to unusual places, a major art collector, and a prolific philanthropist.

Driven and motivated, Jay Kislak got his first real estate license while still a high school student at Newark Academy. He earned a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating early to serve as a Naval aviator in World War II.

Following his naval service, he returned to the family business in Newark learning the mortgage banking business. During his over 50-year tenure at the helm, the Kislak Organization grew into an industry leader.

He had visited all seven continents along with visits to the North Pole and the South Pole.

While building a successful business enterprise, Kislak also created a cultural and historic legacy – unique collections of rare books, maps, manuscripts, paintings, prints and artifacts.

With his second wife, Jean Kislak, he established the nonprofit Jay I. Kislak Foundation for the conservation and study of materials related to the cultures and history of the early Americas.

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In 2004, he donated more than 4,000 items from the collection to the Library of Congress.

This extraordinary gift to the American people is now on permanent display and features one of his greatest acquisitions – the 1516 Carta Marina Navigatoria, the first printed navigational map of the world by the celebrated German mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller.

His Majesty the King of Spain Juan Carlos I granted Kislak the prestigious Encomienda of the Order of Merit Civil, and he was named a national Unsung Hero by Curtiss Mansion, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals on National Philanthropy Day 2017.

Back at Monmouth University, Jay received the prestigious Leadership Excellence Award at the university’s annual Kislak Real Estate Institute dinner, now in its 26th year. The Kislak family has also established several scholarships for real estate students at Monmouth University.

The Kislak Family Foundation recently made a grant to enable the Kislak Real Estate Institute to host its first intercollegiate real estate academic competition among teams of undergraduate students from Villanova, Rutgers, Lehigh, Montclair and Monmouth.

Last year he celebrated his 95th birthday with a celebration of family and friends on the Intrepid in Manhattan.

While Jay is no longer with us, his legacy of business, art and philanthropy will live forever.

Peter S. Reinhart, Esq.

Director Kislak Real Estate Institute


Professor of Real Estate Policy Monmouth University

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