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News & opinion

14 DEC 2021

Meet Alvah Beander FRICS - first African American Fellow in Arts & Antiques

Alvah, tell us something about your professional career

My three biggest milestones are:

  1. Becoming the first African American to appraise for a sitting United States of America president. I appraised the African art gifts to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. 
  2. Working as a consultant to the pre-planning team for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 
  3. Winning the contract to appraise a Sherman Tank for the National Museum of the United States Army.


What is your professional focus today?

I appraise African, African American, and African Diaspora art. As a certified Small, Women-owned, and Minority-owned Business (SWaM) I also assemble and project manage teams for government contracts, for example, the Sherman Tank appraisal.  

My professional focus today is to learn all I can about Non-fungible tokens - unique and non-interchangeable units of data stored on a digital ledger – (NFTs) and social media platforms. 


What do you like most about your work, and what do you like least?

I am interested in business, culture, education, and technology.  As an appraiser, the research involved in the process to reach credible value conclusions marry the four squared foundational nature of my curiosity.  I love to find opportunities in my work to learn new points of view each day through the lens of art. 

What I like least about my work is that I very often have too much data and can suffer analysis overload.


You achieved chartered status (MRICS) in 2016 - what does the qualification mean to you and what were your reasons for applying for Fellowship?

I’ve worked internationally since the mid-eighties. I learned that the high standards of RICS were recognized globally and I wanted to be a part of such an esteemed group.  

I became a Fellow because of two people that I have never met. Bola Abisogun OBE, FRICS, whose posts on LinkedIn about the incredible work his organization, Diverse City Surveyors is doing. I respect him and noticed he is a Fellow. I also came across an interview with Sharon Slinger FRICS on noting that only 4% of RICS Fellows were women. She said she became a Fellow because, “I thought it was important to go through the process and show others that it can be done, and that Fellows come from all different backgrounds. 

I felt she was talking directly to me.  


RICS introduced a new diversity and inclusion characteristic as part of the RICS Fellow application earlier this year - how do you think this can help to promote a more diverse profession?

This is a great addition to the characteristics that can be used in the Fellow application process. I think some people will see it as unnecessary, but it's a sign for many that RICS is working on implementing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) measures that add value to our organization, and membership. I see RICS as an organization listening and learning as we re-establish our leadership position globally.


Besides your work, you volunteer in various areas, tell us a bit more about that, and why that is important to you?

I volunteer to raise funds for the Fairfax County Library Foundation, and for higher education institutions. Working with not-for-profit organisations that offer space to young people to develop their critical thinking, and social interaction brings me great joy.

I’m also interested in technology, and use my programming skills to mentor, teach and raise funds for the Science Technology Engineering and Math Education and Innovation Center (STEMEIC). I’m passionate that STEM programming for youth is necessary to support a sustainable and secure future. 


What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?

I was 70 in November 2021. As the family matriarch I understand the importance of my role and my responsibility to leave a legacy. I would tell my younger self:

  • These two books will provide you with great clarity; Quiet: The Power of Introverts - Susan Cain and Outliers: The Story of Success - Malcolm Gladwell.
  • Apply the efficiency/effectiveness methodology of engineerFrederick Winslow Taylor (1856 – 1915) to your business.
  • The Novelist L. Doctorow will befriend and influence you.
  • The Myers Briggs personality test which you will initially resist, will help you navigate life. You will learn that you are an INTJ.
Alvah T. Beander, FRICS, ISA, MBA