IREM and the real estate community lost an inspiring leader, a mentor to many, and a tireless advocate for the industry with the death of Eugene J. (Gene) Burger, CPM, CRE. After bravely fighting COVID-19, Gene passed away at home on Feb. 18 surrounded by his family, including his wife Shirley.
It was 40 years ago, in 1981, that Gene Burger stepped up to serve as IREM’s president. The 1980s were a period of great expansion for the property management profession, and Gene made sure that IREM was well positioned to both influence and benefit from this growth. His term as president was one of great accomplishment: This was recognized in 1982 when he received the J. Wallace Paletou Award. As IREM’s most esteemed award, the Paletou is presented to someone who has made significant contributions to the real estate management industry and has contributed to the betterment of society as a whole. This is a perfect description of Gene Burger.
“His contributions were always selfless,” said 1997 IREM President Jo Anne Corbitt, CPM. Calling him “a friend, teacher, counselor to all who were lucky enough to know him,” Jo Anne remarked on how Gene’s “great efforts contributed to the advancement of professionalism to so many.”
Before Gene was president of IREM, he was an IREM instructor, a role he cherished as he shared his wisdom, experience, and insights with students in classrooms throughout the country. The knowledge, caring, and skill he carried into the classroom were formally recognized in 1996 when he received the Lloyd D. Hanford Sr. Distinguished Instructor Award, identifying him as one of IREM’s best.
Looking back over his time with IREM, what was truly remarkable about Gene was that being IREM’s president didn’t end his involvement. If anything, his passion for the Institute only grew, reflecting his deep sense of responsibility to the industry he was a part of and had helped shape. This was evident in his immersion with the IREM Foundation. He was its president in 1988–1989 and remained on the board for many years.
It was also evident in his participation in the IREM Federal Housing Advisory Board. Perhaps nothing engaged Gene more earnestly than when he got involved with what was happening in Washington, DC. “Gene dedicated much of his leadership energy over the past 20 years to his passion for affordable housing via his contribution on the IREM Federal Housing Advisory Board (FHAB),” said Pamela Monroe, CPM, IREM president in 2000 and a colleague on the FHAB. “Gene was a constant voice for IREM member stakeholders who own and manage affordable housing,” she said, adding that, “because of Gene’s leadership and passion for advocacy, IREM has been a leading force for major HUD issues over the years.”
All while Gene was giving so much of his time and attention to IREM, he also was running his company and growing it into a regional powerhouse. Eugene Burger Management Company (EBMC), accredited as an AMO since 1969, was founded in 1968 by Gene and his partner, Theodore Barclon, under the name Barclon-Burger Management Corporation. A decade later, as their business styles and goals began to diverge, the two partners agreed to divide the business. Gene retained the original company charter, adopted a new corporate name, and led the company to grow into the business operation it has become with 12 offices in California and Nevada.
Gene remained active in the firm and was its chairman and CEO, guiding the organization to fulfill its purpose of creating “a family culture where our employees and clients thrive and we bring together a diverse team to challenge the status quo and build value.” His son, Stephen Burger, CPM, is president and COO. His daughter-in-law, Lori Burger, CPM, IREM’s 2015 president, is senior vice president and secretary of the corporation. Shirley Burger, his wife and partner in both business and life for more than 50 years, is senior vice president and corporate treasurer. As EBMC’s website so fittingly proclaims, “What started out as a dream between a husband and wife has blossomed into an innovative and service-oriented business.”
A celebration of Gene’s life will be planned later this year with further details to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Nevada or the IREM Foundation.