Board Member Rocky Lai shares real estate expertise with UST
Successful real estate developer and investor Rocky Lai, MBA ’90, moved to the United States from his native Taiwan to earn an MBA at the University of St. Thomas-Houston Cameron School of Business. Lai learned about the private Catholic university and its excellent reputation from his uncle, Andy Lai, a local attorney who was friends with the former, long-time, beloved Cameron School of Business dean, Dr. Yi-Min Ho.
Success in the Real Estate Development and Investment World
With foundational knowledge, Lai founded Rocky Lai & Associates (RLA), a boutique real estate investment firm based in Houston that specializes in acquiring, developing, managing, and financing real estate projects. Today, he has invested in more than 100 real estate-related opportunities across the United States, with more than $2 billion in value creation for his investors. RLA’s aim is to leverage the company’s development expertise and strategic partnerships to identify and create value in underutilized real estate assets.
“My MBA gave me the impetus to start my own company in 2005, especially the managerial accounting course, Business Dilemmas,” Lai said.
Lai began his career specializing in developing master-planned communities, where he was the primary investor for the Sienna and Riverstone communities. Today, RLA continues to grow its land development portfolio and expand into the industrial, multi-family, office, and retail space via acquisition, partnership, or development.
Lai’s Honor Code: Give Back to Your School and Communities
As Lai’s business grew, he took time to give back to the community, especially his U.S. alma mater, UST. Introduced to UST President Richard Ludwick through another friend and former board member of the University, Mr. Don Wang, Lai joined UST’s Board of Directors in 2016.
Lai Serves as Chair of UST’s Facilities/Technology Infrastructure Committee of the Board
Today, he serves as chair of UST’s Facilities and Technology Infrastructure Committee of the Board, leading the University toward meeting its Greater Things 2030 Strategic Vision goal of becoming a premier University.
“In the next several years, I am focused on building a new residence hall to accommodate UST’s phenomenal growth in its student body and adding two floors to the current Doherty Library, making it the centerpiece of campus life,” Lai said.
As a leader, he believes in setting a good example for current UST students and alumni to give back to their school and the community.
Lai and Don Wang helped UST establish the Taiwanese Studies Program and Mandarin Center.
Not forgetting their homeland, Lai and Wang partnered with UST’s Center for International Studies to launch the Taiwanese Studies Program and the Mandarin Center. Lai and Wang traveled with a UST delegation to Taiwan in 2018, opening doors to leaders in government, higher education, and business throughout the island nation.
Dr. Hans Stockton, Associate Vice President for International Relations & Engagement, and former director of the Center for International Studies, praised both gentlemen, saying, “Because of Mr. Lai’s and Mr. Wang’s generosity and guidance, the Taiwan Studies Program and Mandarin Center have gained international recognition as premier programs in the United States.”
Lai explains his involvement by saying, “I am originally from Taiwan, and it is my obligation/duty to support this program. We supported these efforts to establish the close relationship between Taiwan and the U.S./Texas as Taiwan is the only truly democratic country in Southeast Asia. This partnership is even more critical now since the authoritarian China's military aggressions and hostile actions against the United States and Taiwan."
Lai and his wife, Tracy, have three sons: his oldest son, Brian, has been working as Vice President at RLA since 2018; his second son, Eric, is an attorney in Houston; and his youngest son, Matthew, is working in the movie industry in New York.