By Catherine Williams
Nantucket is believed to be a Wampanoag word meaning “faraway island.” Thirty miles from Cape Cod and the furthest place east in the contiguous United States, this faraway island was once a bustling whaling community so well known that Herman Melville chose it as the fictional birthplace of his most famous character—Captain Ahab. Today, the 15 mile long island is better known as a summer destination of choice for families seeking to reconnect with one another and nature.
“It’s a place out of time,” explains Alan Worden ’87, founder and CEO of Windwalker Real Estate and Scout Real Estate Capital, both on Nantucket. “With grey shingled homes surrounded by giant lawns that reach out to the ocean, Nantucket is the kind of place that inspires you to take time to be together with your family and friends. Surrounded by water, there’s a spirit of freedom here.”
Water has been important to Worden for his entire life. He grew up in a small town near Cape Cod, chose Hobart as much for its location on Seneca as its academics, and is an accomplished sailor. “To feel at peace, I need to see and smell the water,” he explains.
At Hobart, Worden designed his own major in architectural studies, now a permanent part of the curriculum. He spent a year in New York City and Paris studying design and, as he says, “…learned enough to know that I didn’t want to be an architect. Instead, I discovered that I like the idea of coming up with the concept of what can be accomplished and then developing the team to make it happen.”
He went on to earn a master’s in real estate development from Columbia University and spent a decade in New York City affiliated with the Guggenheim family, where he focused on real estate investments, including founding Guggenheim Realty Funds Management.
But something was missing. “I was too far removed from the environment,” he says. “I needed a change.”
That change came when he and his then wife purchased a 44-foot sloop and sailed from New England to New Zealand in one year. “It was a big decision. It meant leaving our careers but it was an adventure we would likely never be able to repeat. This was my Everest.”
After their successful 14,000 mile trip, Worden returned to real estate in New York. The couple divided their time between the City and Nantucket, where Worden had been summering for more than a decade and where the couple wanted to raise their family. “I thought, why don’t I take my real estate experience to a place I love?”
In 2002, Worden launched an advisory and brokerage firm serving Nantucket, naming the company Windwalker Real Estate after the boat that carried him to New Zealand. As that business proved successful, Worden concentrated on broadening his work and bringing it to the investment level. Scout Real Estate Capital, named for the dinghy that Windwalker towed, is now a thriving resort investment and development firm.
“The dinghy, Scout, was a courageous little boat that got us to shore where we were able to interact with the locals and develop strong relationships that last to this day,” Worden explains. “The firm, Scout, is a vehicle for taking hotels and properties, all of them along the water, and turning them into wonderful resorts that allow families to spend the most important time of their lives together—on vacation developing relationships.”
Today, Worden lives on Nantucket with his two sons, Henry and Charlie, where the family is involved in a number of community projects, many of them aimed at preserving the island. “When you live on an island, you have to rely on one other,” Worden says. “Residents get together to accomplish goals and to ensure that Nantucket will remain a beautiful place far into the future. On an island, you can’t throw things away because there is no away. Sustainability is critical if we are to preserve this way of life and this island.”