By Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki
When you think of women who have had a deep and lasting impact on the homebuilding and community development industry, two names are at the top of that list – Denise Dersin and Debra Bassert. They share a lot in common. Both are generous with their time and energy, are exceptional writers, lead with a sense of true humility, and both have spent their careers looking for ways to create opportunities for others to contribute to this rewarding field. Last month in Las Vegas, they shared another honor – they both joined other legends in the Best in American Living™ Hall of Fame, as part of the eighth class of inductees.
Denise Dersin is the Editorial Director of Scranton Gillette Horizon’s (SGC) suite of award-winning print and online publications including Professional Builder Magazine, Custom Builder Magazine, ProBuilder.com, CustomBuilderOnline.com, and ResidentialProductsOnline.com. These publications and websites not only provide vital information for the housing industry on business management, design, construction, sales and marketing, and building products, they have also given industry exposure to new leaders, new ideas and new products that otherwise may not have seen the light of day. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 30 years, Denise previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Builder Magazine and Editor of Time Life Books, where she edited, wrote or researched more than 50 volumes for four of the company’s best-selling series of books.
At SGC she has presided over the launch of new online publications and innovative content strategies as the media landscape continues to evolve. She’s inspired and encouraged new voices to share their perspectives, both from within and outside the industry, and also directs the publications’ signature events, including Women in Residential Construction – now in its fourth year, and the 40 Under 40 Executive Summit held each May in conjunction with PCBC. Denise credits her time spent over the years with fellow judges and the participants in awards programs including the Best in American Living Awards, Professional Builder’s Design Awards, Builders’ Choice and the William S. Marvin Hall of Fame for Design Excellence for inspiring insights that were invaluable as she continued to write about the amazing work of this industry.
One such industry leader inspired by her time with Denise is Alaina Money-Garman, Co-Founder and CEO of Garman Homes. She has this to say, “Denise delights in the talent and triumphs of everyone in our industry. Through the magazine’s annual 40 under 40 list and the Women in Residential Construction conference, she finds a way to introduce us to new faces, new voices, and diverse points of view. She makes everyone else feel like it’s her honor to get to know you. I want to make people feel like Denise makes me feel. Seen, heard and known.”
Debra Bassert received word of her nomination to the Hall of Fame on the eve of her retirement, December 31, 2019, after dedicating more than 35 years of her life to the fields of land use policy, site planning and design, most of them with the National Association of Homebuilders. She was Assistant Vice President for Land Use and Design for NAHB for the past 20 years, where her team provided strategic policy assistance on federal, state, and local land use and design regulations. Additionally, Debra’s team has guided the development of extensive resources on land development, housing affordability, infrastructure financing, and national design trends, and is also responsible for managing and promoting NAHB’s Best in American Living Awards. This year, they were thrilled to honor one of their own, who has given so selflessly over her career. Debra’s advocacy efforts have focused on reasonable regulations, take-home educational value, best practices, and on-the-ground success stories. Since it’s launch in 2013, Debra served as Editor-in-Chief of NAHB’s online news source, Best in American Living – Redefining Home and Community, and Editor of NAHB’s Land Development Magazine for several years before that.
Don Ruthroff, Principal at Dahlin Group, an architecture and planning practice, and the emcee of this year’s BALA Awards, had this to say about the impact of Debra’s work, “Her work with the NAHB Land Development Committee to track the challenges development faces across the nation, and to develop case studies that have been used to navigate those challenges was simply amazing. In addition, her work with the Design Committee and its BALA Subcommittee to bring recognition to the best communities completed the circle of her work and love of providing homes and communities for people to live in and enjoy.”
Denise and Debbie are two inspiring and deserving inductees into the Best in American Living™ Hall of Fame for their work creating opportunities and challenging others to make the world a better looking and a better living place.
Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki is the principal of tst ink, bringing a customer-focused “how might we?” approach to creating communities and brands that connect and engage with how people want to live their lives.