At a Glance
Major(s): Business Administration Management
Why UML? “I came from a homogeneous high school on the North Shore … UMass Lowell was bigger than any place I'd ever been."
Jonathan Geanakos ’84 may have ended up in a successful commercial real estate career no matter what, but the business administration management alum definitely received an assist from his UMass Lowell men’s lacrosse coach, Steve Connolly.
One day at practice, Connolly told Geanakos, a senior co-captain from Ipswich, Massachusetts, about an opening for a loan officer trainee position at the Lowell Institution for Savings.
“I barely knew what a bank was, but I took the interview,” says Geanakos, who was hired to open checking accounts and process student loans.
Geanakos was eventually invited to join members of the bank’s real estate lending team on a visit to a condominium development in Clinton, Massachusetts. Watching construction vehicles move mountains of dirt around a massive tract of land while the developer held court with the bankers from a wood podium, Geanakos was mesmerized.
“I came back to the bank and said, ‘That was the most fascinating thing I've ever seen. Is there a way that I could get into construction lending in real estate?’” recalls Geanakos, who learned that that was his manager’s motivation for including him on the visit all along.
So began a global commercial real estate and investment management career that has spanned four decades at major firms in Boston, New York and Chicago — most recently as president of the Americas at JLL Capital Markets, where he oversaw a $500 million division with nearly 1,000 employees.
Geanakos retired from JLL in 2022 and now serves on the boards of directors for the Urban Land Institute and Holland Partner Group, a multibillion-dollar luxury apartment developer. He is also a member of the advisory boards for the Manning School of Business and the UML Athletic Department, frequently returning to campus to share his experiences with students.
Geanakos, who was honored with a University Alumni Award in 2022, remains friends with several of his UML lacrosse teammates, including Stuart McCord ’84, Mike Zuccaro ’83 and Ed Gillis ’84.
“They’re like brothers,” says Geanakos, who chose UML so he could remain close to his family and his high school girlfriend (and eventual wife), Patti, while continuing to play lacrosse.
He discovered so much more at the university.
“I came from a homogeneous high school on the North Shore where everyone was basically the same,” he says. “UMass Lowell was bigger than any place I'd ever been. There were people from all over the state, all over the region, and not everybody agreed with the way I looked at life. And I learned to adapt.
“I love the school,” he adds. “This place is a goldmine for discovering what matters in life and preparing you for what’s next.”