College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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True Wealth: Meeting Warren Buffett


by Sarah Small

On Friday, October 22, a group of 20 honors students, along with John Hedeman, dean of Business Honors visited Warren Buffett, billionaire investor, in his hometown of Omaha. For two hours they traded questions, toured several of the companies he owns, dined with him at a local restaurant and posed for fun pictures with him afterwards.
“Mr. Buffet is someone who, through his humility and strong morals and values, has inspired many of us to take the role of social responsibility in our careers,” said David Perez, sophomore in International Business and Marketing. “What struck me the most about Buffet was his simplicity and genuine interest in us. Not once during our five hour meeting with him did he ever pick up his phone, or check his email.”
During the two-hour question and answer session with Buffett, many of the topics focused on business, litigation, economics and investing, but the students from ILLINOIS took advantage of the opportunity to ask more human questions in order to gain insight into the business icon.

Michael Lyons, a sophomore who helped schedule the trip to meet Buffett this year, described the question-answer session as being the best one he had ever attended, and Michelle Fasano, a sophomore in Finance, said the students from ILLINOIS asked him unique questions questions such as, “If you were born the same as us, what methods would you use to make money?” and “What is the most memorable way someone has gotten your attention?”
“He seemed to enjoy answering the more personal, non-technical questions better,” Fasano said.
She also said that students were impressed by the vast amount of statistics, numbers and facts he was able to recall when answering their questions; she said it made his incredible intelligence obvious. Students were also surprised to discover that many of the themes that he brought into the discussion were not related to business, but rather to more human elements like love, marriage, family and friendship.
Fasano said her favorite part of the trip was being able to hear the stories he had to share.  
“Listening to him tell funny and serious stories from his life, as well as listening to his wisdom and advice,” she said. “Everyone also really liked how he drove an old, not-flashy car and drove it himself, how he had no body guards and how he doesn't even carry a cell phone in Omaha!”
Lyons, who sat next to Buffett at lunch, said that the respect and attention he showed to the students is one of the things he will remember most about this trip.
"He made it seem like being as wealthy as he, was simple, and yet he was so incredibly humble the entire time," Lyons said. "He gave me the utmost respect with everything I asked/said and always acted as if he was just an old friend without any financial status difference at all. He is truly a role model to how all successful people should shape their own character."

For Fasano, Perez, Lyons and the rest of the students who made the trip to visit Buffett, what they will remember is the humility and simplicity of such a wealthy and legendary business man, and the lessons he had to share.
“I like to tell people that ask me about the trip just how he was clearly a genius and successful investor, but what he stressed most to us was not his amassed fortune or investment tips, but family, friends, and love,” Fasano said.

UIUC College of Business