Lehigh University
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Finding value in valuation

From left, Linda Dietrick, Jane C.H. Jacob and Pamela O'Neill '87 talk with ire@l students.

Students in Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics heard from three industry leaders in the field of valuation and appraisal recently as part of the ire@l (Integrated Real Estate) at Lehigh Speaker Series.

Panelists included Pamela O’Neill ’87, principal-in-charge of the valuation practice at WeiserMazars LLP; Linda Dietrick, managing partner and director of the appraisal department at The Dietrick Group; and Jane C.H. Jacob, president of Jacob Fine Art.

The ire@l Speaker Series, initiated by Tara Stacom ’80, invites distinguished leaders to campus to talk with students and faculty.

A career path less traveled

The three panelists spoke about their career paths and how they gravitated to the field of valuation. Pamela O’Neill started at Lehigh University as an accounting major and switched to finance her junior year.

Now, nearly 25 years later, she has directed more than 800 valuation assignments across a variety of industries and regularly provides expert witness testimony for damage calculations and other financial analyses.

“I love what I do,” O’Neill said. “Every day I solve problems.”

Linda Dietrick is a recognized expert in the field of commercial and investment real estate and appraises property across the Lehigh Valley. When someone initially suggested the field of real estate appraisal to her years ago, she dismissed it as “too analytical.”

Now, she sees things differently.

“Appraisal is not a science; it’s an art form,” Dietrick said. “Even though I’m not analytical by nature, I get a gut feeling about what a property is worth.”

Jane C.H. Jacob started as a painter and was repeatedly told by her father that there was no money in art. Eventually, she discovered an art appraisal certification program and now owns her own firm, where she appraises artwork and provides provenance research.  

“This is the career of a real entrepreneur,” Jacob said. “Not everyone thinks about valuation, but it’s very interesting work.”

 Across the board, the three panelists agreed that the field of valuation is generally recession-proof.

“When the economy is good, we’re busy,” Dietrick said. “And when the economy is bad, it’s the same thing, because we’re getting appraisal requests from lenders who want to assess the value of their portfolios.” 

Jacob concurred. “You’ll always have the 4 ‘d’s: death, debt, disaster and divorce.”

All three told amusing anecdotes from their careers and spoke about current issues and trends in their fields. Jacob talked about how Antiques Roadshow has changed the landscape of artwork valuation. Now, everyone thinks they’re in possession of an undiscovered Monet.

“I spend a lot of time educating clients on the appraisal process,” Jacob said. “A lot goes on behind the scenes of Antiques Roadshow that doesn’t make it on the air.”

The women also shared words of wisdom with the students in attendance.

“You need to manage your career,” O’Neill said. “No one but you has your best interests at heart. Manage your own career, your own intellectual capital, and your own politics.”

Story by Adrienne Wright

Posted on Thursday, April 07, 2011

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