By University Communications
Every year, Warren Buffett takes time to meet with select college students from around the country — including a group from the Eller College. This year, 20 UA students joined groups from five other universities for a visit that included a tour of a Berkshire Hathawaycompany and an open discussion with Buffett.
The trip was coordinated by theFinancial Management Association(FMA), the Department of Finance, and the Undergraduate Programsoffice. Alex Stutz (BSBA Finance ‘11), president of FMA, was part of the group that coordinated the trip. Students were invited to apply to be part of the UA delegation; the application process asked students to explain why they would like to meet Buffett and what questions they had for him. FMA conducted formal interviews, and then the finalists were chosen.
Brandon McBrien, a triple major in architecture, business management, and regional development, was among the students who went on the trip. “My mother, a single parent, worked for a Berkshire Hathaway company for several years and she instilled in me a tremendous respect for Mr. Buffett,” he said. “Growing up, I was taught that dreams and success can be realized through education, dedication, and discipline, and that an important part of education results in seeking the wisdom of men and women who have walked the path of greatness before us.”
“With an icon such as Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, you sort of expect everything to be very formal and rigid,” said Stutz. “But Mr. Buffett has a reputation for being a low-key guy. He drove himself to the question-and-answer session, as well as the lunch, in an older Cadillac. No entourage, no security.”
The students were impressed with Buffett’s talk. “During the question-and-answer session, Mr. Buffett gave valuable insight on business and life, all in an approachable way that makes you feel like you are speaking with a family friend more than a business legend,” Stutz said.
McBrien added that some of Buffett’s most memorable advice was to choose heroes wisely, see opportunities instead of problems, and to buy stock in businesses that are so wonderful an idiot could run them – because sooner or later, one will.
The students saw a different side of Buffett during a photo session. “We started the session with some formal business pictures, shaking hands and the like,” said Stutz. “As things got rolling he started loosening us up, taking fun pictures.”
“I took a ‘Wall Street power picture’ with Mr. Buffett where we stood back-to-back with our arms crossed,” McBrien said. “With other students, he pretended to tell stock secrets, posed as though he was giving his wallet away, and even put one student in a head-lock.”
“We took a normal picture with his arm around me, and as I walked away he grabbed my hand and got down on one knee for a photo,” said Acadia Rey (BSBA Finance ‘11). “I was so shocked that Warren Buffett was on one knee for me, I couldn’t speak. He said jokingly, ‘At least she didn’t say no!’”
“All in all, I was very impressed with Mr. Buffett,” Stutz said, “even more so than just reading about him, or seeing his interviews on television. It is now clear, more than ever, why he has been so successful in business.”
“He is so intelligent and personable that it is easy to be around him,” Rey said. “It is inspiring to see such a sincere person in a position of power. This experience allowed me to connect what I learn in the classroom to real-life investing and hear it from one of the most successful investors in the world.”
All three said that apart from getting to meet the Oracle of Omaha, the trip gave them the chance to connect with each other. “As Mr. Buffett said himself, ‘Do not underestimate the connections you are making right now in school,’” McBrien said. “The most valuable aspect of this trip was connecting with my classmates.”
“It was good to get to know everyone a little better and be with some of Eller’s best and brightest outside of the classroom,” Stutz said. “My only regret is that I hadn’t met most of these people sooner in my college career. I will always look back on this trip for the fond memories – and I’ll remember it when I get to hang up that amazing photo in my office!”