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a man 'as honest as the day is long'

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Summer Wildcat
July 7, 1999
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

With a seemingly endless number of awards and accomplishments, the only thing possibly left for Royers "Roy" Drachman to achieve would be having the city named after him.

Throughout his 92 years, the local legend has been instrumental in making Tucson what it is today. He has handled over $1 billion in real estate transactions, served on numerous state and national land planning committees and established several programs at the University of Arizona.

But he prefers to be remembered by the honesty and professionalism with which he conducted his business.

"If you don't conduct yourself properly, you don't have anything," Drachman said. "If people know that your word is not good, they won't want anything to do with you."

Drachman will now have to make room on his mantle for yet another award. Last month at a meeting in Flagstaff, the Arizona Board of Regents selected him as one of two recipients for the annual Regents Award.

The award, which was also given to Raytheon Systems Company, was established four years ago to honor individuals or organizations that "provide exceptional service to higher education in Arizona."

The award is just as important as any previous honor, Drachman said.

"For me to be selected out of the whole state, I feel complimented and honored for what I was doing, because I love the University of Arizona," he said.

Regents President Judy Gignac said a special committee was appointed to select the two recipients. After reviewing Drachman's accomplishments, it was apparent that he was a true champion for the UA, she said.

"He is a long-time supporter of higher education and economic development in the community," she said.

Drachman, the son of Emanuel Drachman and Millie Royers, attended the UA from 1925-26. During his brief stay, he was the assistant sports editor for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and a water boy for the UA football team.

The one regret he has is not earning his undergraduate degree, although the UA presented him with an honorary doctorate of law degree in 1985.

His father's illness forced him to drop out and help with the family's downtown theater business.

"It was tough times, but we were young and we did simple things," he said, referring to life in the depression.

Drachman planned to leave Tucson in 1935 for the cooler weather in California, but changed his mind after learning to build his own swamp cooler.

During the next five decades he made a lucrative living selling real estate.

In 1946 he established the Roy Drachman Realty Company, and would later serve as the president of three national real estate organizations - the Urban Land Institute, International Council of Shopping Centers and the American Society of Real Estate Counselors.

Despite his ongoing involvement in the Tucson community, Drachman never got involved in local politics.

"Sometimes I wish I had run for office, but I never did," he said. "I thought that maybe I could have as much influence from outside the political arena."

Drachman's largest contribution to the UA was in 1983 when he donated $1 million to the Arizona Cancer Center. Three years later, he helped establish the Drachman Institute for Land and Regional Development Studies at the UA.

Sandra Rosenbloom, the institute's director, said their purpose is to promote environmentally sensitive and resource conscious land use in the Southwest. Drachman's well-known business habits have had an influence on the center, she said.

"He's as honest as the day is long," Rosenbloom said.

After helping to create the institute, Drachman became the chairman for the UA's Century II Campaign - the university's first capital fund drive. Between 1987 and 1992, Drachman led a group of volunteers that raised $196 million.

"I saw the need for help and I thought it was important to support the various institutions that I have," Drachman said from his home in La Jolla, Calif., where he now spends his summers with his wife, Sally.

Drachman is still active in the workplace, as a broker and a weekly columnist for the Tucson Citizen. Drachman has two children, Roy E. "Manny" Drachman and Miliana. He has seven grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.