It's every business student's dream to chat with Warren Buffett.
The CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, investor and philanthropist offered Seattle University graduate students in the Albers School of Business and Economics that opportunity earlier this year.
Finance Professor Jot Yau accompanied a group of 20 Albers students to Berkshire Hathaway corporate headquarters in Omaha, Neb., where Buffett not only took them to lunch at a local restaurant but also spent 2½ hours with them for a Q and A session before the lunch. And the Albers students had front-row seats. (A couple students even hitched a ride to lunch with the living legend--more on that in a moment.)
A few times each year, Buffett invites students from business schools to meet and ask him questions. Albers students, along with students from seven other universities, were honored to be invited this year. It was the school's first ever invitation.
The students marveled at how one of the most successful men on the planet is also one of the most down-to-earth.
"We told ourselves, if he were a professor at school, we would never leave the classroom just to hear him talk forever!" says Jesse A Salom, '15 MSF.
Other Albers news: high marks
The accounting and executive MBA programs in Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics were highly ranked in the latest “2016 Best Graduate Schools” rankings by U.S. News & World Report.
Accounting was ranked #15 nationally and the EMBA program at #18. (The University of Washington's accounting and EMBA programs ranked #23 and #20, respectively). Accounting tied in its ranking with programs at Harvard, Loyola Marymount University and University of California-Berkeley.
The Albers part-time MBA program was ranked #61 in the country overall, up from #68 last year.
The students enjoyed Buffett's great sense of humor. Each school had the opportunity to pose a question. SU's was asked by Lauren Rochholz, '16 MBA and administrative coordinator in University Planning. She asked about lessons learned from the recent financial crisis and a prediction of what the next bubble would be. Buffett gave a lengthy answer that included his concern with threats he termed "CNBC"-cyber, nuclear, biological and chemical.
He answered all their questions, no matter what the subject.
"The ease with which he switches from a discussion on serious money making to talking about values and philanthropy is one of the qualities that makes him so great," says Lakshmi Sambamoorthy, '15 MSF.
Buffett's willingness to give advice on life as well as business impressed the Albers students.
"He seemed to value character even more than intelligence and encouraged us to go out and be persistent at working for individuals who we admire," says Kevin Klauer, '15 Bridge MBA.
Giuseppe Grillea, '14 MSF, says he found great synergy between Buffett's "emphasis on ethics and honesty in business as the foundation for true long-term success in business" and the Seattle U and Albers missions.
Before the trip, the Albers students were given detailed instructions on what they could and could not do during the visit. One rule-no selfies with Buffett-was broken by the Oracle himself. Natacha Maheshe, '15 Professional MBA, was riding an elevator when Buffett, by chance, stepped in. He invited her to take their picture-and even used the word "selfie!" (Professor Yau was able to avail himself of the same opportunity.)
Marianne Stover, '15 Bridge MBA, was one of two SU students to have Buffet drive them to lunch. "It was fascinating. He was funny and he was really much more personable than you could even imagine."
At lunch the Albers students rotated seats to let each other have a chance to sit at the same table as Buffett. Stover learned it was not beneath the Oracle of Omaha to pull a chair out for his guest or help with a ketchup bottle.
Stover also found she had something surprising in common with Buffett-neither of them have smart phones. When she started to recount the whole experience, Stover's mother asked, "Did he hire you?" While a job offer, per se, may not have been forthcoming, Stover says the opportunity to meet Buffett was "irreplaceable."
Takeaways from the visit were many. Buffett not only gave the students advice on business and how to invest, but, in the words of Maheshe (of "selfie" fame), "One thing I will always remember is that Warren Buffett is a happy person. Not because of money, but because he's made his life simple-treasuring human relationships and integrity more than money."