CEO of Related Urban tells more than 2,000 PBSC graduates to never give up on a career vision
Palm Beach State College welcomed Kenneth A. Himmel, president and CEO of Related Urban, the nation’s leading developer of large-scale mixed-use properties, as the keynote speaker during the College’s 2023 fall commencement ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 19, at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach.
During the ceremony, PBSC awarded degrees and certificates to more than 2,000 graduates including a little more than 1,000 graduates of the Associate in Arts degree program and a little more than 1,000 graduates of the Associate in Science, Bachelor of Applied Science and Bachelor of Science degree programs and the certificate programs.
“This moment belongs to you and all the people in your lives that supported you along the way,” said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D., during the event. “As you take the next step in your career, academic, and life pursuits, remember, you are a panther. There is nothing you cannot achieve. And wherever you are in your life journey, there is an entire Panther community of faculty, staff, alumni, and students rooting for you.”
The event, which was livestreamed on PBSC’s website, celebrated the culmination of the College’s 90th anniversary year with a fireworks display.
Also rooting for the graduates was Himmel, who has enjoyed a 45-year-long career creating thriving developments that bring forth the energy and vitality of an urban destination that resonates with existing local lifestyle and culture. During the ceremony, he spoke about growing up in a single parent household, going to work before the age of 15, and graduating in the bottom 20% of his class at William & Mary College.
“That did not deter me because I had already decided that hospitality and my first inklings of real estate were in my blood,” said Himmel, who learned about the hospitality industry working at Salem Country Club outside Boston for almost seven years.
After graduating from William & Mary, Himmel decided to pursue this passion at Cornell University.
“Anyone can change when they get passionate about what they are doing,” said Himmel, who took 22 hours of courses for four semesters in a row and graduated number one in his class with a Bachelor of Science degree from their School of Hotel Administration.
Himmel contributes his career success to not only having passion but finding the right spouse.
“If you can find the right life partner, it can make the difference in your entire career and your personal life,” said Himmel, who has been married to his high school sweetheart for 53 years. “I don’t know how I would have ever done what I did without my wife not just supporting me but leading the whole family effort.”
Himmel also seized opportunities when they came along and urged graduates to do the same.
“There are moments in your life when you see something come along and you have to seize the moment,” said Himmel. That moment for Himmel was when he got a phone call from someone who asked him to interview with a company who owned his dream hotel, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, in Boston. He ended up working for the chairman of the company on a bunch of projects.
“I made sure they knew how much I understood the hotel business at 25 years old,” said Himmel.
That technique paid off for Himmel who said he was then offered a job to become the project manager of the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Water Tower Place in Chicago at 27 years old.
“That job was a dream come true. Everybody thought I was in my early 30s.”
This led Himmel to a career changing series of events which took him on assignments all over the country, including overseeing the implementation of Nordstrom’s headquarters in downtown Seattle. Today, he is grateful to have traveled more than 5 million miles doing business for more than four decades.
“Never give up on your visions as you mature in your careers,” said Himmel.
One of Himmel’s visions that came to fruition locally is The Square in downtown West Palm Beach. Today, he is looking forward to even more growth as he and Steven M. Ross, founder of Related Urban, just launched the Related Together grantmaking foundation to drive economic mobility in West Palm Beach’s northwest neighborhoods.
“We have never given up on West Palm Beach. This is an incredible community, incredible state and Palm Beach County is the greatest opportunity zone in the entire country,” said Himmel, who noted that he and Ross spend 75% of their time here now in part because of the city’s pro-business environment.
At the closing of his speech, he urged graduates to get involved in their local communities.
“You can’t turn on your TV or read the newspaper without negativity just about everywhere. It’s paralyzing us and we can’t get out of our own way. But it’s you, the young generation that’s missing right now. We need younger people to commit themselves to government and gain the experience to make America what it really wants to be.”
Along with recognizing graduates, Parker presented an honorary Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Supervision and Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship to entrepreneur and philanthropist George T. Elmore, who is the founder and president of Delray Beach-based Hardrives, Inc., one of Florida’s leading heavy/highway contractors, providing road construction services, including the building of the Florida portion of I-95, since the 1950s.
Elmore has also been a PBSC Foundation board member since 2011 and a PBSC donor for over 30 years committed to supporting students in their educational pursuits.
For more information on PBSC’s graduation, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/graduation. To view photos from the ceremony, click on the Flickr album below.