Margaret P. “Pat” Bessette, CPM, is the 2012 recipient of PMA’s highest honor, the Alvin L. Sussman Award. The Sussman Award is presented to a property management professional who has amassed an extraordinary record of accomplishment. Pat Bessette deserves this honor. For nearly 40 years, Pat has been a leading advocate for affordable housing. Today, she is the president and CEO of Quantum Management Corporation where, Pat says, “she leads the orchestra. Her incredible team plays all of the instruments.”
Like many of her accomplished peers, Pat did not start her career with visions of property management dancing in her head. Her first passion was fashion. She wanted to study fashion retail merchandising. Her father had other ideas. He told her if she wanted to learn about retail merchandising, she did not have to attend college. She could learn everything she needed by working at one of Boston’s department stores. Pat was determined to go to university, so she changed directions and decided to become an elementary school teacher.
After graduating college and working as a substitute, Pat realized that education was not the career path for her. She held a variety of jobs, ranging from selling truck fleets to waiting tables. She turned to her first love, fashion, and was hired by Ups and Downs, a boutique chain of women’s clothing stores comparable to Ann Taylor. The store sent Pat to Louisville for training and then assigned her to manage the store at Landmark Mall in Alexandria. Pat’s performance earned her several promotions, and she became the regional manager for the national capital area, overseeing stores at Tysons Corner Center, Wheaton Plaza, Landover Mall and at most of the major retail centers in our area.
Her work at Ups and Downs provided Pat with a priceless bonus. One day, while observing activity on the sales floor of the Tysons Corner Center store, she saw a cute guy walk in holding a Hallmark card bag. She greeted him, and he immediately recognized her Bostonian accent. He said he was shopping for a birthday present for a friend. One thing led to another. He asked her out and it ‘was love from that point on. They have been married for 35 years.
When Pat’s husband was offered a new career opportunity in Rhode Island, Pat gave up the fashion industry and accidentally made her way into property management. She was helping a company part-time to complete paperwork to qualify residents for a HUD senior community. The company asked her to come on board full-time. When she said yes, she received the keys to a rehab project that was converting an A&P grocery store in Providence to a senior community.
Pat worked at the property for three and a half years before returning to the metropolitan Washington area. In October 1980, she joined Shannon & Luchs and was assigned to help manage 2012 PACE Award winner Evergreen House. From there, she transferred to manage another senior community, Tysons Tower. After four years at the community, Pat was promoted to regional manager and then vice president of specialized housing.
Opportunity knocked, luring Pat from Shannon & Luchs to take over operations of Community Management of Maryland. Originally hired to replace a retiring owner, Pat purchased the company in 1990 and renamed it Quantum Property Management Corporation in 1991. For the next two plus decades, Quantum has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the premier managers of affordable and low-income housing in the national capital area. More than 90% of the company’s clients are not-for-profit organizations. This type of property management is different than managing conventional communities. Pat believes it is easier, because ownership’s goals invariably are to help make the properties better places to live for residents. “We are here to service the needs of our residents,” Pat explains. Most distributions are reinvested in the communities.
Pat believes that managing senior and other low-income communities also is more rewarding. Her passion is evident when she notes, “You get to know the people and help them. It’s like having a zillion grandmothers and grandfathers. Seniors have needs that you can respond to and take care of.” She understands those needs, and that is one of the reasons her communities cater to their residents so well to meet them. The number and level of activities that Quantum-managed properties offer are staggering. That’s one of the primary reasons why Quantum-managed properties have been honored with numerous PACE Awards in the first two years of the program.
Pat has been an active and supporting member of the property management industry throughout her career. She obtained the Certified Property Management (CPM) and Accredited Management Organization (AMO) designations from the Institute of Real Estate Management. She was one of the participants in PMA’s Business Leaders Forum and is the initial recipient of PMA’s Stanley F. Reid Humanitarian of the Year award. Pat was honored for her work trying to find a cure for cystic fibrosis (CF).
Her commitment to this cause is unrelenting. Her son Danny was born with CF. When his life hung in the balance shortly after his birth, Pat said she made a pact with “the guy upstairs” that if he let her son live, she would work to find a cure in his lifetime. She has been true to her commitment. She refers to herself as an obnoxious fundraiser. Pat and her husband started the fundraising walkathon, Great Strides, 24 years ago and continue to work tirelessly to raise money for CF research.
Danny has been the poster boy for CF for more than 20 years, speaking at charitable events and serving as living proof of the scientific gains that have been realized over his lifetime. He continues to defy the odds, but that should not come as a great surprise. He’s got a great role model to thank for that. Pat has a quote on her desk, “Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed.”
Pat’s contributions to her industry, her residents, her staff and her community are living proof of the power of her good deeds and kind words. PMA is humbled to include her name among the recipients of its highest honor, the Alvin L. Sussman Award.
Excerpt from PMA’s Bulletin Vol. 40 No.11 November 2012