Former ULI chairman J. Ronald Terwilliger has been chosen as this year’s winner of the Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development, the Institute’s highest honor. An internationally recognized expert on affordable housing, Terwilliger is also the founder of the ULI Terwilliger Center for Housing and chairman emeritus of Trammell Crow Residential.

Terwilliger helps build a home for Habitat for Humanity International. In 2009, he announced a $100 million legacy gift to the organization. (Habitat for Humanity International)

Terwilliger helps build a home for Habitat for Humanity International. In 2009, he announced a $100 million legacy gift to the organization. (Habitat for Humanity International)

“What separates Ron from a great many people is that not only does he contribute financial resources to what he’s involved in and what he feels is important, but the fact that he is willing to give his time, his knowledge, and his experience,” says Nichols Prize jury chair John Bucksbaum, chief executive officer of Bucksbaum Properties. “Very few people do this. It’s a testament to the type of person Ron is.”

The ULI J.C. Nichols Prize recognizes a person, or a person representing an institution, who has demonstrated a longtime commitment to the creation of communities that prosper by providing a high quality of life for all residents, and which reflect the highest standards of design and development. The $100,000 prize honors the legacy of Kansas City, Missouri, developer J.C. Nichols, a founding ULI member considered one of America’s most creative entrepreneurs in land use during the first half of the 1900s.

“Ron’s example of giving back is extraordinary. Together, his industry expertise and passion for housing make him an incredibly effective advocate for a cause that is critical to improving the quality of life for people worldwide,” says ULI chief executive officer Patrick L. Phillips. “He is a doer who is absolutely committed to making a measurable difference. Our institute, our industry, and our communities have been made all the better for his leadership.”

Terwilliger is being recognized for his extraordinary civic and philanthropic efforts to raise awareness of decent housing as a basic human need, with a particular emphasis on increasing the supply of housing that is both affordable to the workforce and close to transit and employment centers.

His advocacy work in the arena of housing affordability has built momentum over the past two decades, evolving into a full-time commitment in the latter 2000s as he wound down his successful career as Trammell Crow Residential’s top executive. As ULI chairman from 1999 to 2001, he regularly spoke and wrote about the need for affordable and mixed-income housing, and at the conclusion of his term, he provided ULI with an endowment to support a senior resident fellow position focused on housing.

In 2007, Terwilliger committed $5 million—the largest individual gift contributed to ULI at the time—to establish the ULI J. Ronald Terwilliger Center for Housing, which engages in a multifaceted program of work to further the development of mixed-income, mixed-use communities with a full spectrum of housing. That same year, he contributed $5 million to Enterprise Community Partners, where he currently is chairman of the board, to support affordable housing development through the Enterprise Terwilliger Fund.

HUD secretary Shaun Donoovan (left) with Ron Terwilliger.

HUD secretary Shaun Donovan (left) with Ron Terwilliger.

In 2009, he announced a $100 million legacy gift to Habitat for Humanity International—the largest donation the organization has ever received from an individual—which will help an estimated 60,000 low-income families around the world improve their housing. A member of Habitat’s board of directors since 2000, he has served as the board chairman of the organization and is the global chair of its “A World of Hope: It Starts at Home” fundraising campaign.

“In my professional life, I’ve seen housing strengthen health, education, families, communities, and economies,” Terwilliger says. “In my philanthropic life, I’ve tried to demonstrate my belief that hope begins with access to a decent, affordable home. I want to help ensure a leveraged, sustained impact beyond my lifetime and inspire others to make the commitment to support affordable housing.”

Previous award winners include landscape architect Peter WalkerHis Highness the Aga Khan, former mayor of Chicago Richard M. Daley, and New York City planning commissioner Amanda Burden.