C.F. Sirmans, ‘an unparalleled figure’ in real estate studies

April 4, 2024

C.F. Sirmans, a highly venerated and decorated real estate economist and professor emeritus in the Florida State University College of Business, passed away on March 25. 
Photo by Kallen M. Lunt/College of Business Click to enlarge

Friends, former colleagues and scholars from around the world are remembering C.F. Sirmans as an icon and a giant in the field of real estate whose contributions to research, the classroom, the academy and the industry loom large – and likely always will.

Sirmans, a highly venerated and decorated real estate economist and professor emeritus in the Florida State University College of Business, passed away on March 25, about three years after having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was 74.

“The academic world recently bid farewell to an unparalleled figure in the realm of real estate studies,” the American Real Estate Society, or ARES, and the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, or AREUEA, announced to their members in a joint tribute this week. “Known for his extraordinary influence and immense presence, C.F.’s contributions to the academic discipline of real estate have left an indelible mark that will resonate for generations to come.”

Geoffrey Turnbull of the University of Central Florida, Mauricio Rodriguez of Texas Christian University and McKay Price of Lehigh University – all of whom worked with or studied under Sirmans – wrote the tribute for ARES and AREUEA.

Over the course of a career that lasted nearly 50 years, Sirmans built an extraordinary record as a professor, mentor and scholar whose interests included housing, land markets, property rights and real estate investment trusts. His prestigious awards included the George Bloom Service Award from AREUEA and the Graaskamp Award and the David Ricardo Medal from ARES. 

Boasting more than 300 publications and 17,000 citations, his research “enriched the field with new theoretical models, empirical methods and a profound understanding of real estate's unique market intricacies,” ARES and AREUEA said in their tribute. In 2011, the FSU College of Business trumpeted recognition of Sirmans as “the world’s most prolific author of the discipline of real estate research” by Real Estate Economics and the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics.

Sirmans also served as editor or founding editor of numerous academic journals.

“C.F. was an icon,” said Dean Gatzlaff, a 2023 FSU College of Business Rovetta Faculty Hall of Fame inductee who retired in 2022. “It was a privilege to have been able to work with and get to know him. His impact on the discipline, the program and faculty at FSU, and on me personally, was enormous.”

Sirmans joined the FSU faculty in 2009 as the J. Harold and Barbara M. Chastain Eminent Scholar Chair in Real Estate and retired in 2017. He previously spent 17 years on the faculty at the University of Connecticut, where he led the Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies. 

He also held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, and he served as a visiting professor at the Swedish School of Economics and Business, also known as the Hanken School of Economics; the National University of Singapore; the University of Hong Kong; and City University of Hong Kong – a testament to his international standing.

“C.F. excelled at creating opportunities for others, both at his home institutions and beyond,” said Stuart Rosenthal, professor and chair of the Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate at Cornell University and co-editor of the Journal of Urban Economics. “C.F. made a career of reaching out to people in different departments, increasing interest in the real estate area and often resulting in valuable collaborations.”

A younger brother and esteemed researcher himself, G. Stacy Sirmans, occupies the eminent scholar chair that Sirmans vacated at FSU. A daughter, Tice Sirmans, earned a Ph.D. in risk management and insurance from FSU in 2017. She now works as an assistant professor at Illinois State University.

Sirmans also is survived by his wife, Elaine; five other children; two other siblings; 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

“We will always remember and honor C.F. Sirmans as a world-class scholar who improved lives, made his colleagues better, significantly impacted the field of real estate and contributed to our preeminence,” said Michael Hartline, dean of the FSU College of Business. “We extend our condolences to Elanie, Tice and Stacy and the rest of his loving family.”

Daniel Broxterman, an associate professor, the Francis Nardozza Fellow in Real Estate and the academic director of the FSU Real Estate Center, called Sirmans’ passing “a great loss for FSU and the field at large.”

“He was the proverbial wise man on the mountain whom so many of us would seek out for his sage advice,” Broxterman said.

Clemon Fielding “C.F.” Sirmans Jr. spent his childhood hunting, fishing and farming in his hometown of Pearson, Georgia. He taught himself to play guitar, which became a lifelong love, and he attended Valdosta State College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He then earned a master’s degree in economics and a Ph.D. in real estate and urban development from the University of Georgia.

As a doctoral student at the University of Georgia, Sirmans began a decades-long collaboration with James Kau, with whom he co-edited the Journal of the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, now Real Estate Economics, and co-founded The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics.

Kau, now an emeritus professor and the former C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Distinguished Chair in Business Administration at the University of Georgia, called Sirmans “a man of few words but great commitment and determination.”

“He will be greatly missed,” Kau said.

Sirmans’ obituary touts his hard work, intelligence, creativity and problem-solving ability, which served him well as a professor and researcher. 

Family members and colleagues also called him a trusted mentor, advisor and confidant.

“I first knew of C.F. as a giant in the field of real estate,” said Thomas Miceli, a professor of economics at the University of Connecticut. “Later, I was lucky enough to get to know him as a colleague, mentor, and co-author, and ultimately as a friend.”

Former colleagues said Sirmans also influenced a generation of students with three textbooks that he authored or co-authored. He trained and inspired doctoral students as dissertation chair and advisor, yet his influence extended well beyond his office and classroom.

Those who knew him also hail his devotion to his faith, family and community. A lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Sirmans and his wife dedicated themselves to helping people in need and in recent years ran an addiction-recovery program near their home.

“While the volume of his academic work is impressive and truly advanced thinking in our field, it is his interest in helping others that is his true legacy,” said Henry Munneke, associate dean for Undergraduate Programs and the Roy Adams Dorsey Distinguished Chair in Real Estate at the University of Georgia. “I am forever grateful for the time I spent with him and the impact he has had on me and my career.”

A memorial is being planned for summer of 2024 in Sirmans’ southern Georgia hometown.

Additional Tributes

“In the world of real estate academia, C.F. is revered as a prolific researcher, with a publication record that stands as legend. Yet to me, he was more than just a scholar – he was a close friend and a wise mentor. In my career journey, C.F. has been like a giant, and I've been fortunate to sit on his shoulders, learning from his vast experience. For that, I’ll always be grateful.”

Joseph Ooi, Professor and Co-Director of the Institute of Real Estate and Urban Studies, National University of Singapore


“C.F. had a profound impact on me both professionally and personally over the past 30 years. His dedication and contributions to our profession and unwavering friendship has left a lasting impression on all who had the privilege of knowing him.  His legacy in our profession will endure and he will be deeply missed.”  

Abdullah Yavas, Professor and Robert E. Wangard Real Estate Chair, University of Wisconsin, and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics


“I personally owe a lot to C.F.  For over two decades, he was my co-author, confidant and a personal and trusted friend.  We worked on so many projects together, with countless memories over nearly 20 years.  People think of C.F. as a great scholar, but he was also an astute administrator -- fair, assertive and compassionate. I am most fortunate and grateful to God for knowing such a great soul so closely.”  

Chinmoy Ghosh, Department Head and Gladstein Professor of Business and Innovation in the Department of Finance at the University of Connecticut