In loving memory of our friend and colleague Peter Lewis

As many of you already know, we lost a gem in our industry recently, our dear friend Peter Lewis. I’ve known Peter for most of my 34 years in the business, and for all of the 25 years we’ve been bringing you our flagship publication, The Institutional Real Estate Letter. For many, many years, Peter also has been a fixture at our editorial advisory board meetings, representing MIT, Liberty Mutual and most recently, Towers Watson. But much more than that, Peter was a personal friend to me, and a great supporter of the work that we’re doing here at Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

Now, Peter wasn’t your ordinary soul. In fact, I’m sure he was born on an entirely different planet. He always seemed to me to be what a friend of mine used to refer to as being “a half a bubble off plumb.” (My favorite kind of people, because they tend to look at the world through an entirely different set of lenses than most of us use.)

Peter also had a lyrical way of expressing himself, as most of you well know. A simple “yes” or “no” was rarely in his repertoire (unless he was responding to an investment proposal).  At more than one of our board meetings, his closing comments almost always were presented in the form of a poem. One time, he perfectly summarized just about everything we had been talking about during the prior two and half days, regarding the recent global financial crisis, in a poem he had crafted. But rather than just read it, he literally sang it to the tune of Don McLean’s classic, American Pie. He even brought a tape recorder to play the background licks.

Peter was always there for you. If you were going through hard times, he was always willing to listen, and most of the time, just sit and empathize. His presence was always soothing, and almost always uplifting.  He had a warm, kind smile that made you feel everything would be all right.

Peter was very warm and engaging and most of us knew that he had a wife — Monica, the love of his life.  And most of us knew he had a family, and that he was very devoted to and absolutely crazy about his kids. He was trained as an architect, and in his early career, worked as a project manager for Leona Helmsley on several projects, including the redevelopment of what is now the New York Palace Hotel. (Peter once told me that he was repeatedly fired — almost nightly — by Leona, only to inevitably be hired back by her the following morning.) In mid career while he was with MIT’s real estate investment team, he was recognized and won awards for his development work. He loved people, and he treated everyone with whom he came in contact with the utmost of respect.

What else can I tell you about Peter that we recently learned from Monica? He was 61 years old when he died. He had two adult children: Mandy, 26, and Jeremy, 29.

As for his interests, throughout Peter’s life he was a big supporter of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  And he was passionate about a number of things — his family, cycling, real estate, punning (as those of us who knew him best can well attest), Broadway musicals, the opera, listening to classical music, and playing the piano. He also had a passion for cats, but in deference to Monica’s severe allergies to the feline species, they never actually owned one during their long marriage.

And now, in what seems like an instant, he’s gone. He died unexpectedly on March 2.  What Monica and his kids would like most now, is that Peter be remembered as the man he was.  A twinkle in his eye, a knowing smile, and occasionally, as Monica might note, just the tiny hint of a giggle.

To truly honor his memory, we now need to focus our attention on the magic that his interactions with each of us brought to each of our lives while he was still with us.

Toward that end, l invite you to commemorate Peter’s life on this blog post. The purpose of which will be to enable all those who loved Peter to post their favorite “Peter” stories. This way we can all celebrate what made this extraordinary human being so important to us all, and we can share with Monica and his family and friends the funny and poignant moments he shared with so many of us over so many years. So, please take a few minutes and share with us.

Check back to this site over the next couple of days to read what others have written and share more memories.  Please join us in honoring Peter Lewis and celebrating the truly extraordinary impact he had on each of the lives he touched.

Meanwhile, you can help Peter continue to make a difference by contributing in his name to a charity he loved, the Pan-Mass Challenge (an annual cycling event benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute).

 Donations can be made online or by mail:

Online at <>
Click Donate / Donate to Riders / and enter Peter Lewis in the box and his name and ID should pop up. Message notes to accompany the donations can be posted as well.

By mail: Checks made out to the Pan-Mass Challenge can be sent to:

Pan-Mass Challenge
77 Fourth Avenue
Needham, MA 02494

Geoffrey Dohrmann is president and CEO of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

41 thoughts on “In loving memory of our friend and colleague Peter Lewis

  1. Peter was a friend and client for about 15 years. I had tremendous respect for the three P’s that were so much in evidence in Peter’s life: passion, pride, and professionalism. He never went through the motions on anything and took on any activity with rigor and independence. And yes, that independence got him in trouble from time to time.

    You could also expect that any re-up opportunity was a new underwriting. No free passes. I also enjoyed our verbal jousting, but could never quite keep up with the pun master. I will miss him and the ever-present twinkle in his eye and his natural playfulness.

  2. Don’t know whether or not those of you reading these posts noticed the facimile of the poem Peter wrote to the tune of American Pie. (It’s the yellow picture, above). If you click on it, it enlarges but not enough to read. BUT…if you click on the enlarged pic, it enlarges to fill your screen, and you actually can read it. Enourage you to do so. It is pure Peter at his best, and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face (and bring a tear to your eye).

  3. Peter was one of those people that you looked forward to seeing at the conferences. Always full of cheer and had such great insight any topic you would bring up, College football to industrial resurgence in coastal sectors.
    Peter will be missed very much by myself and my Dad, long time friends.

  4. I work at the drycleaners where Peter lived in New York and for two years I saw him almost every Friday morning or Saturday. He was truly a remarkable man and even though his outward appearance seemed quiet and reserved, ask him anything and he alwaaaays had THE most intelligent funny answers. My last conversation with him was the Friday before he passed and we spoke about him going to a Rolling Stones concert last year and about Rajon Rondo of the Celtics being out for the rest of a season. Imagine, Peter was not even a sports fan but he knew about the latter :-). Not a day hasn’t gone by since his passing have I not thought about him. I will miss my friend dearly and I’ll always remember his warm smile and great easy going conversation.

  5. I only got to know Peter in the past few years but was able to spend some quality time with him, sharing meals in NYC in addition to some time at industry conferences. He was so insightful and so generous with his time and guidance to me, and during a time in my career that this was so important. I was struck by Peter’s transparency and ability to engage on a human level almost immediately with me, and found this so incredibly refreshing. I will miss Peter and feel short-changed that I only got to know him relatively recently. I know his family and life-long friends will always carry in their hearts the beauty that Peter shared with them.

  6. We will greatly miss Peter Lewis. Peter was a force to be reckoned with in a transaction in which we became the new GP of a fund. He was charming but demanding, funny but buttoned down, and a tough negotiator but knew when a win-win situation presented itself. He really put us through the paces, but we developed a mutual respect and friendship through the sparring, laughing and agreeing to disagree. He was one of the most geniune, what you see is what you get, persons in the business. Our hearts go out to his family and colleagues.

  7. On behalf of all of Peter’s friends at our firm, I would like to let his family know how instrumental Peter has been to our growth. As an early supporter, his insightful advice was truly valued. In his varied roles, as investor and more recently as consultant, Peter always approached our discussions/debates as a friend; putting himself in my/our shoes before delivering his thoughts.

    We all know that Peter loved to needle, but never was it delivered in a mean spirited way. I like to think Peter needled to remind us all that we are human, that we operate in a relationship business, and that when we think too much of ourselves, we operate at our own peril.

    To pun with Peter, to intellectually joust with him, these are the best memories from our times together. Going forward, I will miss those interactions!

    With his passing I do take sloace that in his inimitable ways, Peter is already making the next world a better place for all of us, just like he did here!

  8. So very sorry to hear about Peter. What a loss to his family, friends and the real estate investment industry. I am honored to have known him through PREA and then even better when he joined the ULI Council I chaired a few years ago. His thoughtfulness and insights will be missed.

  9. While we only met Peter a handful of times, his amazing spirit and love of life came through, always. From our discussions with Peter, it was clear that he was an industry great and dedicated to his work. Our conversations were always multifaceted and we always left feeling better than when we arrived and we would reflect on how much he adored his wife as well as how it must be great to work for someone…someone like him, like no other person we had met.

    Our condolences to his family. May the sentiments of his colleagues bring you comfort – that others knew what you knew all along.

  10. I got to know Peter over lunches and breakfasts over many years through our mutual friend and my colleague, Ted Trivers. Peter was boundlessly generous with his knowledge and advice on all things capital – raising it, spending it, getting it back, and how to do it all better. He was funny (and he thought so too, which made it even funnier), listened well, spoke mellifluously, and could agree or disagree with a zen-like, enlightening calm. He always spoke lovingly of his family. A warm, multi-dimensional man. We will always appreciate his advice and friendship and will miss him.

  11. Peter was a gem. Always thoughtful, always ready with a quip. I don’t think I ever saw not smiling or near a smile. I remember many conversations with him over the years. The “best” one was as we hiked along some trails out west and talked about everything under the sun except real estate investment. He will be missed.

  12. I didn’t know Peter well. I shared a discussion table with him and others at a IREI’s VIP event a couple of years ago. As you know the format is quite interactive with everyone participating in the discussion topics. When we had a break in the action he asked who I was with. When I told him, he immediately mentioned he knew our CEO, Karin Shewer. He said “our Mothers were friends and pregnant with us both at the same time. They would ride the subway in New York together”. My first thought was “what are the odds”. We had a very nice discussion about his friendship and relationship with Karin and their families. He seemed like a very genuinely kind person. The kind of person you don’t forget. I saw him again this year at VIP in Dana Point less than six weeks ago. It was a quick, polite hello like it is with so many you recognize from our past industry events. I was shocked and saddened to learn that he had passed. Life and our relationships are precious. Much more important than an IRR. Gods speed Peter. Comfort and peace to your family.

  13. Peter was a dear man and a gentle soul. I was with Peter in Boston on 9/11 and he helped me get home to Ohio. My memories of that very sad day are tempered by his kindness and concern. Somehow he helped me find the last rental car available in Boston, then took me out to the airport to pick it up. He will always be my hero.

  14. Like many of the others who wrote notes, I have known Peter for decades. However, it is only recently that I have had the opportunity to get to know him better. Peter was one of the true gentleman of the industry. He wasn’t just smart, he was knowledgeable and , as a consultant, he was a joy to work with because told you what he was thinking and why. His gentle humor and the twinkle in his eye brought that extra dimension that enlivened any gathering that he was part of. Fair winds and following seas, my friend. Tom

  15. I first met Peter back in his days at MIT and often had conversations with him at industry gatherings. Always interesting and insightful, Peter’s loss is deeply felt.

  16. How terribly sad it is to lose a guy like Peter. I will remember him for his welcoming personality, his quiet, quick wit and his slightly mischievous smile. Although he’s gone too soon, the world is a better place for having had him in it.

  17. Peter was real, Peter was kind, Peter was a joy to be with. When I attended real estate industry events, they were immediately more interesting and enjoyable if Peter was there. I’m so sad to know he is no longer with us, and our industry will be far less interesting without him.

  18. I had the privilege to meet with Peter on many occasions on three continents over the years. He was one of the first US investors I met during my time in Hong Kong. He was also one of the nicest and the best. His insightful questions helped me to unpick more of the mysteries of investing across borders – those questions were always posed with the gentle and irreverent humor that was his hallmark. He was a card (as Peter himself would likely have punned). And then there were the dinner and bar talks! Boy will he be missed.

  19. I am very sad to loss such a vibrant, genuine and kind man. Peter was always refreshingly honest and approached life with zest. I can hardly believe we were all on a bike ride together at VIP only weeks ago. His legacy is in his poems and puns and he left us all laughing together. He will be missed by everyone who were blessed to know him.

    To Peter’s family – you should know how loved and respected Peter was, he was a unique character in the real estate industry. There’s no one quite like Peter Lewis.

  20. My sincere condolences to Monica and family.

    While I only had a handful of interactions with Peter he left an indelible impression upon me. He was always warm and gracious, witty and interesting. He was good counsel when I asked questions of him but more than anything else, he was simply good people. The best way for me to pay tribute to the man, is to live my life in the same principled manner in which he led his. The world will be a better place!

    May the love and support of family and friends bring you some measure of comfort in the days ahead.

  21. Peter was a terrific friend – smart, thoughtful, caring, always with something interesting to say and genuinely interested in how you were doing. You will be missed my friend. Rest In Peace.

  22. Peter was one of the truly “good guys” in this industry. He was always honest and respectful and he was very loyal to those whom he considered friends. I met Peter 20 + years ago and from then on always counted on running into him, either planned or unplanned for a good chat. I fully expect that his spirit will be present at PREA next week to say his goodbyes. Peter, I will miss you.

  23. It will be hard when we all go to the next industry event and do not see Peter. He brought his son to hear the PREA dinner speaker one time. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do. He stopped by to visit with us here in Chicago about a month ago. I wished I knew we were saying goodbye.

  24. Early on in my real estate investment career, I had the good fortune to serve on a panel with Peter Lewis, when he was still at MIT. Little did I know how much he knew about the real estate industry. But he had the grace to not outshine me (as a supernova might when compared with a penlight.) He made me feel like I actually had a contribution to make to the discussion and stayed a friend from that day. That anecdote in a nutshell summarizes Peter for me: a very gracious, highly intelligent person.

  25. Peter was both a friend and a mentor; but above all else, was a outstanding example of someone who loved life and lived it to the fullest. He was devoted to his family and talked about them with great joy and pride. Since I too am often in New York on my own, we would venture out to a Moroccan restaurant or a Broadway show. I was not at all surprised to find I was not his only “date’ and he did this frequently with his large contingent of friends! My favorite story is one of Peter lugging a Christmas tree across Manhattan on the subway and being so proud of this accomplishment. I will miss Peter greatly, as I am sure everyone will, and my prayers go out to Monica, Mandy, Jeremy, his father, and his brother. I can’t believe we won’t have dinner next month when he will look at me and say, “How are you doing, no, I mean really, how are YOU doing?” But, I take comfort in knowing that wherever Peter is, he’s riding his bike, making friends, torturing managers, writing clever poems, and savoring every aspect! God speed, Peter.

  26. The first time I met Peter was in a coffee shop at Rockefeller Center when he was at MIT and we were pitching our Fund to him. From the moment I met him I knew Peter was a deep thinker, with one heck of a sense of humor. Throughout my career since that time, whether in real estate or out of real estate, Peter was someone I always turned to to discuss what made sense in a fund, what were fair terms, did the strategy resonate? And, along the way we saw Broadway shows together, went biking together, talked nutrition together, and had lots of laughs. I know for me, and for many others, the world will shine less bright without Peter in it.

    Susan Levine

  27. I am shocked and saddened to hear this news. I started my institutional real estate career a little over 5 years ago, fresh faced and more than naive. I met Peter at one of the conferences my first year–he was incredibly warm, kind, and always could say something to make you laugh. He was welcoming to everyone in our community, new or mature. His witty insights on managers and situations were a hallmark. It was always interesting what he had to say and what he thought. We worked together on a few more hairy situations during the crisis and he was always calm, professional, and quirky–which could take the tension out of every situation. On behalf of all the younger people he welcomed into the industry, he will be sadly missed–on panels, conferences, at at cocktail hour! I’ll remember him as someone who always had a mischevious grin and a sparkle in his eye.

  28. In 2000-2001, Peter (& MIT) were very instrumental in the beginning of Patron’s 1st fund. All at Patron, especially Keith, recognise that he was pivotal to our success. However, my favourite story was summer 2004/05? – I was making social call to One Main St, dressed in vacation wear, and no real business agenda in mind. As we were chatting in conference room, Peter received a phone call from John Grayken who was at the time trying to seek Peter’s approval in buying a stake in Korean Bank. Peter wasn’t a large investor, but influential to say the least. Peter refused to take the call, even after his assistant came to ask again.

    I deferred and said “please, take the call Peter…I’m just here on social visit”. Peter replied wryly back “oh, he’s been trying to reach me for a week, let’s just let him stew”. “He needs me to get on board and quit rockin the boat” (with other LPs). And then we spoke of his summer plans, etc and riding his bike to / from Newton. happy trails Peter

  29. I had the pleasure of working (and smiling) with Peter during the years he worked in the MIT Treasurer’s Office. Having Peter as a colleague certainly made for a better workplace. His unique sense of humor brought many smiles to me and our colleagues. Though some of his puns were groaners, they were always clever. My sincere condolences to his family on the loss of a truly special guy.

  30. Peter saw the world in a unique way – I think it was because of looking through those THICK glasses of his. He was so helpful and insightful to me when I started my institutional real estate career. I am blessed to have known him.

  31. I have met and had many conversatons with Peter over the years, especcially when pitching a transaction to him. He was a gentleman in all sense of the word, so that he treated you and your ideas with the highest respect whether or not he invested with you. I will truly miss having the opportunity to chat with him and offer my prayers to his family.

  32. For those of you reading these comments — please feel free (and do) add your own recollections and remembrances of Peter below. Not only will these “Peter Stories” bring a smile (and, sometimes, a tear) to the eyes of everyone who reads them. Your posts also will enable Monica, Mandy and Jeremy to see for themselves how well and broadly Peter was loved, and how much he touched all of our lives.

    • Keep in mind that we review all posts to avoid cluttering up the site with spam. So if your post doesn’t appear right away, never fear. It will appear as soon as it’s been cleared by a member of our staff.

  33. For months, Peter had been encouraging Rita and I to use his apartment in New York if we were going to be staying over a weekend. We finally took him up on his offer last March, about a year ago. Rita always believes in leaving a place cleaner than we found it (which was hard to do, given Peter’s propensity to be neat and detail oriented). And, my mom had always taught me to leave something behind. So we left Peter some yellow roses and a bottle of Glenfiddich.

    The following is taken from the note he wrote us back – classic Peter: “Please tell Rita that Glenfiddich makes it easier to clean an apartment as you really don’t notice the dirt after a while. Usually occurs around the same time I have a conversation with the yellow roses!”

  34. We will all miss Peter’s friendship, insight, and wit. Many of us saw him just over a month ago at VIP where at one point we broke into small groups to debate designated topics for a half hour or so; then a representative from each group was asked to summarize their conclusions. Peter was always chosen in situations like this because of who he was. And he managed to once again go a step beyond summarization to include a tortured pun, a slightly salacious double entendre, and a gentle rebuff to some of our own pretensions. This was vintage Peter and left some quiet chuckles and several hundred pairs of eyeballs rolling. He loved our business and was a genuine credit to his profession. Sadly, another one gone too soon.

  35. This is a wonderful tribute.

    I’m one of the bicyclers that Peter led for many years on Sunday rides. He was a master at finding flat, scenic, and low-traffic routes.

    I’d forgotten his poetry until you mentioned it. When he was responsible for coordinating a ride he usually did it with poetry. Following is one example.

    Great minds think alike. Our group was already considering making a contribution to the PMC.


    The Tour du Jour this Sunday
    Depends upon Irene
    A Waban start at 8 o’clock
    If storms don’t intervene

    We won’t ride back to Acton
    Our pace we can decide
    Please let me know route pref’rence
    And if you plan to ride

  36. So sad, so young, so full of life, and as aptly stated “always a half-bubble off” but always genuine in his beliefs and how he dealt with others. He’ll be missed by us all.

  37. Peter was a unique individual. A person of great integrity and a friend to all.
    He will be missed.
    Two great Real Estate people , Brian Prinn being the other, lost to us in the same month.

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