Who Did WCE Students Hang Out with in Omaha?

Published on December 6, 2010

UH Bauer College Entrepreneurship Students Spend Weekend with Warren Buffett

Group Gets Lasting Impressions of Oracle of Omaha

Cultivating great business minds: Arthur Warga, Buffett, and Melvyn Wolff.

Students from The Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the nation’s top-ranked undergraduate entrepreneurial program at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business, were given an extraordinary opportunity to spend the weekend with  one of the world’s most respected and successful investors – Warren Buffett.

For the second consecutive year, a group of UH Bauer entrepreneurship students received a highly coveted invitation to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. headquarters in Omaha, Neb.  This also marks the first time Bauer students at the graduate level joined undergraduates for the occasion.

The Center’s namesake, Melvyn Wolff (BBA ‘53), is Chairman of Star Furniture, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Twenty students from the University of Houston’s Bauer College Wolff Center program interacted and joined a select group of students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and three other universities who were invited to spend time with Buffett Nov. 20-21.

The Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship (WCE) was recently named the best undergraduate program for entrepreneurs in the U.S. by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine and has been among the nation’s top two programs since 2007. Buffett’s invitation is yet another indication of how highly regarded the program is, said Arthur Warga, Dean, C. T. Bauer College of Business, who along with Wolff, accompanied the students.  UH Bauer was the only Houston business school present.

“It doesn’t get any better than meeting an investment giant and enormous worldwide figure like Warren Buffett.  No one is more synonymous with investment and entrepreneurial success than Warren Buffett,” Warga said. “Warren’s dedication to meeting business students from across the nation and offering them his unique perspective says a lot about his dedication to our future business leaders.  This experience is something our students will remember throughout their lives.”

UH-Bauer students had the opportunity to visit some of the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries and participated in a Student Q&A Session with Buffett during the two-day visit.  During this rare chance meeting, students were awestruck by Buffett’s openness, energy and values.

The man nicknamed the Oracle of Omaha for his phenomenal investment performance – Forbes estimated is wealth at $47 billion this year – emphasized the value of investing in people with a passion for what they do.  During a two-hour Q&A session the 80-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway was a prime exhibit of that.  Buffett also talked about global deals involving his company’s acquisitions in Israel and Japan.

GETTING UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH WARREN BUFFETT

Coog Paw Proud in Omaha. Bauer MBA student Melissa Emekli with Buffett.

“His energy was phenomenal. He was on his feet the whole time,” said Tim Walker, an entrepreneurship major at UH. “He didn’t look like he was standing on the ground, he was walking that fast.”

Another observation repeated by a handful of the students who were in the group of 20 from Bauer College – 16 from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship and 4 MBAs – was the way Buffett could simply explain complex things.

When asked about picking investments, Buffett talked about his insistence on investing in what he understands – furniture, food, insurance and railroads among them – over technology where he doesn’t have that same grasp.

“With companies he looks at holding them forever and owning the whole thing even if he invests in part of it,” said Joshua Pitts, an entrepreneurship major.

A key to that longevity is the values, leadership and energy of the leaders in charge, who continue to run the businesses Buffett buys.

“He said he is looking for someone who had the passion to be there every day,” said Karen Pfeifer an entrepreneurship major at UH.

Several things Buffett said struck a personal chord that day. For WCE student Dan Colvin, it was thinking really long term.

“I recently have been focused on what I could change now and in the next few years, but not as much about changing my life and others over the long run,” Colvin said. “It jarred me to consider a view that’s broader and longer term.”

Buffett also talked about balancing business and family, which hit home for WCE student Mahnaz Cinquegrana.  “He said the most important decision is the person you marry. The most important job is teaching your children,” said Cinquegrana. “There has to be a balance. You don’t get a rewind, when you can do things in your life right.”

Mixed in with all the serious thoughts, was constant stream of jokes.

“He holds your attention and is engaging and funny. With every question he managed to throw in a joke” in the answer said Melissa Emekli, one of several UH Bauer MBA students in the group.

WCE student Margarita Flores got to sit next to Buffett at lunch when Dean Warga traded seats with her.  “I was listening to his conversion with Melvyn Wolff,” Flores said. “Melvyn was telling a story about how Mr. Buffett came to visit him at his house for dinner and they made these huge steaks. He ate it so quickly that they asked if he’d like another and he said, ‘of course.’ and he ate another huge steak.”

Everybody got a chance to meet the man and have a few words. WCE student Leonid Kalmanovich, spoke to Buffett about how they are connected via a company in his homeland of Israel.

“I had a chance talk to him one on one,” said Kalmanovich. “I was so grateful for the opportunity to Mr. Wolff and Bauer College of business that made it happen. It was an amazing opportunity.”