Tod Spieker ‘67 Talks Swimming, Real Estate, and Pursuing Your Passion

3 mins read

“I had such a positive experience at M-A, on the swim team and in general. A few years ago, M-A needed a new pool to keep up with the times, and I felt that was the perfect opportunity for me to give back to the community,” said Tod Spieker, the patron of M-A’s Spieker pool.

Spieker began swimming year-round as a nine-year-old. He lettered on the varsity M-A swim team for four years, swam for four years on a scholarship at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and competed internationally with the United States Masters Swimming program for over 30 years.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford closed its pools, so Spieker opened his backyard Olympic-sized swimming pool to Olympians Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Ledecky and Manuel trained in Spieker’s backyard pool nine sessions a week for three months. “We keep in touch—Katie and her mom keep in touch with my wife and me to this day,” he said.

Looking back on his swimming career, Spieker reflected, “As a young kid, I didn’t have much going for me. I wasn’t really any good at any other sport. I wasn’t particularly academic—I wasn’t a classroom learner. I had nothing else to hang my hat on. But swimming turned out to be a real godsend, because it gave me something that I eventually excelled at.”

Spieker joined the M-A swimming and water polo teams as a freshman. He remembered, “We had an excellent swim coach, Bob Gauren, and I owe a lot to him—he was very experienced and a great leader.”

Spieker competed for M-A at dual meets and the Central Coast Section (CCS) Championships, which at the time were called North Coast Championships (NCS) and included a larger region. “When I was a sophomore, we upset Palo Alto High School, which was number one in the country. We were the mythical dual meet champions in the country that year,” he said.

During Spieker’s sophomore year, his family considered buying a new house. He visited many local open houses with his mother, where his passion for real estate began. “I was always particularly interested in how people pay for houses—mortgages, loans, income,” he said.

At UCLA, Spieker continued swimming and studied geography. UCLA did not offer a real estate major or many real estate courses at the time, so Spieker enrolled in real estate night classes at a nearby community college. “I didn’t take my major at UCLA very seriously, but, all of a sudden, I got a bee in my bonnet to pursue real estate. I took my real estate classes very seriously. I ended up getting my real estate license in college, and getting my real estate broker’s license a few months out of college.”

After graduating from college, Spieker worked for an apartment management company for three years. Then, he took a job in real estate sales at Coldwell Banker, where he started listing and selling apartments. Eventually, he started to buy apartments, and began to build up his own real estate management company, Spieker Companies, which he currently runs. He has been working in real estate for 54 years and running his own company for 42 years. He currently owns over 500 apartment units in Menlo Park alone, and in total, almost 5,000 units—all but 200 in the San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Many of the skills Spieker learned from swimming translated to his real estate career. “Swimming taught me to work hard,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I learned how to be dogged and to out-discipline the next person. In real estate, I applied those skills by analyzing rents in the areas, and attempted to know my market better than my competition. A lot of the apartments I purchase other people also want to buy. It’s competitive. In both swimming and real estate, you need to always be on the ready.”

Spieker’s advice to current M-A students: If you’re fortunate enough to figure out your passion, pursue it with a vengeance. Most people don’t have the opportunity to figure out their passion, because they’re so knee-deep in the daily grind of life. But if you figure out what your passion is, do your damnedest to pursue it.

On his favorite books, Spieker said, “When I read, a lot of times, I’ll read a John Grisham book just to be entertained! Grishams are great—they’re page-turners and a little bit of nonsense, but there is also a lot of truth in what goes on in those books. Otherwise, I like to read biographies or autobiographies about people that have been successful.”

When asked if his first name is spelled with one or two Ds, Spieker replied, “If one’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for Tod.”

Caroline Pecore is a senior in her first year of journalism. Her column, "Bears Doing Big Things," runs every Monday. She enjoys meeting new people through journalism and writing about the M-A community. Outside of school, she spends most of her time rowing for Norcal Crew and also enjoys reading, drawing, and exploring the outdoors.

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