UNL College of Business Administration senior Tom Chvala of O’Neill, Nebraska, found a mentor in Gerard Keating ’87 of Atkinson, Nebraska. Keating offered Chvala a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity to work in his real estate investment company, Keating Resources, in Naples, Florida.
“I've known Gerard for a long time. I mowed his parent's lawn when I had my own lawn mowing business growing up. One day, he and I just started talking and later he offered me a summer job. I was excited about the opportunity to work for him,” Chvala said.
A fifth generation entrepreneur, Keating president and CEO of Keating Resources, was elected UNL student body president while attending UNL and also served as a student regent. He had no idea that his small real estate investments would grow into his own multimillion dollar company with offices in Atkinson and Naples, Florida.
“I bought my first investment in 1986 with my brother while I was a senior at UNL. I owned a home and duplex on east campus and grew my investments from there,” Keating said. “This summer I needed someone to study the investments I was pursuing in Florida. Tom was the perfect candidate as he enjoys real estate and knows how to research buildings and farms I was considering buying.”
Chvala earned his real estate license in Nebraska and Florida, and worked as a research and investment broker for Keating. Each week he would look for investment opportunities by researching different demographics, trends and where real estate properties were high or low. He would scope out large farms and industrial buildings for Keating.
“I enjoyed the flexibility of the job. Everyday brought something new and it was great to meet so many people and get down time on the beach," Chvala said. "Even though my job was 1,600 miles away, in a different weather and business climate, my education was still very practical. My agribusiness major is the perfect mix. I think a Nebraska education is applicable in any location. It's a great education and it's affordable."
Chvala who will graduate May 2016, has always been interested in real estate and law. He currently owns a couple of townhomes in Lincoln and has been inspired by his mother’s work as a lawyer. After receiving a full-time offer from Keating following graduation he must choose between going to UNL to earn his law degree or working with Keating in real estate by May.
“It’s important to me to be a part of a strong community. I want to work in a position that helps others, whether it is providing legal counsel or seeing the transformation and development of a community through real estate. That's why it was great to work with Gerard. People like him make a difference in the lives of others and in the community as a whole,” Chvala said.
Keating who was an agribusiness major, believes it is important to give back to UNL and serve as a mentor for others.
“I want to help young people maximize their potential. My advice to others and what my experience has taught me is that it's important to take risks in your 20's, stay away from negative and dishonest people, search out innovators, never give up and have fun," Keating said.