Editor’s note: As part of the 40th anniversary of McKnight’s, McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News are recognizing 40 notable newsmakers. Each week, the brands will highlight a new, high-profile leader from the past four decades. Previously published installments of the series are posted here.

Today, data tell us everything from our buying preferences to how we stay physically active.

Tony Mullen, who was a co-founder of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care in 1991, knew about the value of data before that knowledge became mainstream.

Mullen, who died in 2018, was instrumental in creating the NIC MAP Data Service, which tracks properties in the country’s largest metropolitan areas. “Tony had a great instinct on data,” NIC co-founder Robert G. Kramer said. Along with Mullen and Kramer, the other NIC founders were Al Holbrook and Bob Eramian.

He also forged new ground in research in other ways, such as establishing Industry Classifications for Seniors Housing Property Types. “This truly was pioneering back then, as there were no real common terms for the property types,” according to Mike Hargrave, the former vice president and chief market and data strategist for NIC, where he oversaw the development, growth and operations of the NIC MAP Data & Analysis Service.

Mullen also helped NIC with other key initiatives during the 1990s, including the initial Case for Investing in Seniors Housing & Care Properties, which resulted in the first significant institutional investment in the sector, and the Key Financial Indicators Service, which was the industry’s first-ever regular aggregate data collection on key metrics.

NIC MAP was born following the industry’s construction overreach in assisted living in the late 1990s, Hargrave said. NIC realized that a more regular and granular data service that included construction tracking would help lenders and investors become savvy about providing capital to the sector.

Mullen also made a key impact on other seniors housing organizations. For example, he made important contributions to the development and evolution of the State of Seniors Housing research on which NIC, the American Seniors Housing Association, Argentum, the National Center for Assisted Living and LeadingAge collaborate.

“He really stayed involved in that over the years and was really committed to better data,” said David Schless, president of ASHA.

That commitment to research and data has vastly enhanced the understanding of seniors housing and care inside and outside the industry.