Beth '74 and Steve '74, '76 Pagnotta
Power couple paves way for others to do well
by Liz Cezat, special writer
Taking time from their vacation in Mexico to do an interview for Spiritus reveals much about the character of Beth (Jevitz) ’74 and Steve ’74, ‘76 Pagnotta. Their dedication to education, role as philanthropists, and success at respective careers in finance/accounting and architecture/commercial development are just part of the story.
While pursuing intensive careers, they’ve raised two sons and a daughter, and are enjoying a new phase of their lives as grandparents. The couple’s philanthropic and leadership goals are to “open doors so that others can walk through.”
The philosophy of giving back was rooted early through their education at University of Detroit.
Beth earned an accounting degree while Steve earned a B.S. and a M. Arch degree in Architecture. Although they knew each other on campus, it wasn’t until they met again at a friend’s wedding that they started to date and later married.
“I have a good technical background from U of D,” Beth said. “My studies helped me pass the CPA exam on the first sitting and also contributed to receiving a full scholarship for an MBA at Northwestern University following graduation.”
Steve had a fellowship where he assisted professors in different roles and disciplines. He notes that his broad education and experience at U of D helped him tremendously in commercial development, especially when working with lenders, lawyers and city planners.
Steve is especially impressed by UDM’s commitment to serving others through education and outreach. “The University has stood there, with Detroit, through good times and bad. It taught me never to give up…whether it’s a project or a business relationship. There are a lot of highs and lows with the development of commercial properties.”
After graduating, Steve joined Beth in Chicago and worked for seven years as an architect—first at a small firm, then at a larger company. He received an intriguing offer to work at a large national real estate development company, and accepted it.
“I enjoyed the development process, it was multi-faceted and exciting,” Steve said. As an employee, he saw a niche he could build on: regional retail centers.
Taking command of his destiny, he founded Bradford Real Estate Companies in 1987. In 26 years, the company has built more than 60 projects—primarily in the Chicago area, with others in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.
“We put land under contract, enter into leases with tenants, get the necessary approvals from the city, obtain financing and then hold or sell ownership,” Steve said. Properties built by the company include general multiple national retail stores.
Beth was the first woman to become partner at the Chicago office of Peat Marwick, which became KPMG. She was also the first woman there to have children and stay at the firm—paving the way for women who would follow.
Beth’s client base was banks and other financial institutions. She served as SEC reviewing partner, one of the firm’s highest technical appointments. In clients’ boardrooms, she advised the executive management teams and audit committees about the technical issues of strategic decisions.
In the boardroom of KPMG, she served as the sole female member of the firm’s Midwest Management Committee, responsible for 7,000 plus employees as partner in charge of human resources for that region.
After retiring, she was elected to the boards of Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS), the ICPAS Endowment Board, and the Chicago Finance Exchange. She served numerous capacities in those roles, including treasurer; founder of a woman’s scholarship program; and co-chair of a philanthropy committee, developing and instructing pro forma financial literacy courses for disadvantaged women.
She also joined the service board at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, where she and Steve are proud donors and members of the Circle of Care. She continues to raise funds for women’s scholarships through the ICPAS Endowment Board.
Steve is on the Board of Advisers to the School of Architecture. His advice to students is, “The market is going to get better for architects. You may not be an architect for your entire life so take classes that fill in the gaps. Pay attention and educate yourself …. don’t just cram for tests.”
They are major donors to the School of Architecture and are helping the School raise funds for new studios.
“Always remember your roots,” said Beth, with a sentimental nod to her late parents and her time spent at the University of Detroit.