Monday, February 18, 2008

The First Visit

Despite having to pay their own expenses, the "Buffett Trip" was heavily oversubscribed and a lottery was run. The forty lucky students spent weeks studying Warren's investment strategy and biography looking for insights. They also decided to honor his philanthropy by arranging to volunteer at Girls Inc the day before meeting him.

I'm not sure how it happened but the local newspaper got wind of UC Davis MBAs paying tribute to Warren Buffett's extraordinary philanthropy by cleaning files, fixing computers and generally trying to be helpful at one of the Omaha organizations that he supports. The students made the front page of the Omaha World-Herald and Warren seemed very taken by their gesture. (To those cynics out there this was quite a natural offering - the UC Davis MBA students volunteer regularly at the Boys and Girls Club of Sacramento and for The Special Olympics.)

A few days after they returned I received an e-mail, followed by a letter, from Warren Buffett saying he had never met better MBA students - and I could use his letter as I saw fit. A stunning endorsement of their intellect and character and I was ready to buy a billboard I was so proud!

Months later, in August, I received an e-mail from Warren's assistant: Mr. Buffett would like to see UC Davis students again this year. Would that be possible? After regaining composure I decided to see how far I could push: UC Davis students would love to come back to Omaha, but could we bring a few more? Two days later I got the word that this year Mr. Buffett would see 120 UC Davis students - not 40!.

We still had to have a lottery but there are 120 students, Professor Barber and I gathered in Omaha's Courtyard Marriott getting ready to meet with Warren Buffett tomorrow.

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