by Sue Tomchin
On many weekday mornings, Wendy Feldman Block, 54, can be found out on the road by 6:15 AM riding 20 miles with a group of women friends.
These rides make her feel good and the women in the group have taught her the necessary skills. “I may be the caboose,” she says, “but at least I’m on the train.”
Feldman Block’s attitude toward cycling is in some ways a reflection of her lifelong ability to approach opportunities with persistence, clarity of purpose, and confidence that she’ll surmount obstacles. She has used these skills to build a 31-year career in the commercial real estate realm, completing leasing and sales transactions totaling nearly 12 million square feet—the equivalent of 208 football fields, end zones included. And while building her career in a male-dominated industry, she has also demonstrated an extraordinary passion for community service.
As senior managing director at Savills Studley, an international commercial real estate firm specializing in tenant representation, she consults with clients to understand their needs and objectives, growth they project, and where their employees reside. Only after understanding the full picture does she go in search of space to meet their needs.
"I take great pride in being available to guide younger people, particularly women, who are thinking about what they want to do professionally in our industry.”
In 2017, Wendy became the first broker in the world to assist a client to achieve LEED and WELL Platinum certification—a new global standard for implementing features within buildings that support and advance human health and wellness.
Feldman Block grew up in Reston, Virginia. Her dad was a lawyer and her mom, a “Renaissance woman,” involved in everything from interior design to counseling juvenile offenders. Feldman Block and her sister Lisa attended Hebrew school and had bat mitzvahs in Reston’s small but growing Jewish community.
Early on, she had strong role models: her two grandmothers. Anne Feldman ran her family’s furniture store in Herndon, Va., and Josephine Riesner went to Columbia Dental School in the 1920s. “Grandmother Josephine told me that she literally had to do twice as much work in case she was called on in class because, if you weren’t prepared, it would reflect badly on all women. I always was inspired by that, to be prepared and do more than a man might do.”
Feldman Block attended Emory University and, after graduating, thought she would work for a year before going to law school. She came to Studley (the company was acquired by Savills in 2014) to work as a researcher. She never left.
“I’m kind of a rare bird that I’ve been at my company since 1987. I was afforded the opportunity to work on a strong team doing large, complex transactions throughout the U.S., basically getting the equivalent of an MBA on the job,” she says.
“It was definitely a boys’ club,” she says of her field. “When we’d travel, it would be many guys and me going to meetings or conferences. I learned how to hold my own. I wanted to be respected and professional, and I learned what’s appropriate and what’s not, in terms of what you say, what you share and how you dress.”
While men predominated, she did have a female boss, with whom she worked for 25 years. “She always told me that, as a woman, you always have to have your own money, so that you can make your own decisions.” That counsel and her success enabled Feldman Block to support organizations she’s passionate about.
Indeed, supporting causes she cares about has become a major theme in her life. She is so passionate about helping that she jokes that she’s had to create the “36-Hour Wendy Rule, which means that when I hear about a cause that excites me I can’t just jump in and say, ‘Yes’, because that’s how you get on too many [volunteer] boards.”
Her first foray into the non-profit realm came when she was just out of college. Missing her grandmother Josephine who had retired to California, Feldman Block volunteered with Iona Senior Services, which helps seniors and their families. Before she knew it, she had become a board member. She subsequently graduated from Leadership Washington, an intensive 10-month program that introduces professionals to regional civic engagement, and found herself in further demand as a volunteer leader.
Among the organizations she is deeply involved in is the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation. “We’re funding social change to benefit women and girls which is really important to me. I have met the most amazing women there who have helped to mentor me,” she says.
Mentoring others is one of Feldman Block’s own priorities. Working in a field where women often leave after a few years, she mentors young women. She has been actively engaged as a leader in Commercial Real Estate Women, as well as several other professional organizations. “I take great pride in being available to guide younger people, particularly women, who are thinking about what they want to do professionally in our industry.”
And while she is helping clients, volunteering for organizations and mentoring young people, Feldman Block is a mom, too. Her daughter, Sydney, is a senior at Barnard, and son, Aidan, a freshman at Syracuse. Her husband, Eben, works in telecommunications.
“I hope I’ve inspired my children, by example,” she says, “to see how it is nice to give and do for others, not just financially, but of your time, your energy and your ideas.”
Join us on December 3rd to be inspired by Wendy Feldman Block and all of our other incredible honorees!