Vicksburg native meets Warren Buffett

Published 7:11 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

Even now that the event has taken place, Parker Rutherford can’t believe he was selected.

The Vicksburg native and current senior at the University of Mississippi was recently one of 20 Ole Miss students selected to attend a question and answer session with billionaire Warren Buffett in Omaha, Neb.

“Mr. Buffett does this a lot,” Rutherford said. “Four times a year, he invites 10 schools, 20 students each and this year we were selected for the first time to go. They sent out an email to everybody in the financiers club as well as everyone who is in Gamma Iota Sigma, which is a risk and insurance honor society.”

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Rutherford had to apply and was selected as one of the 20 Ole Miss students who got to take the trip to Omaha. The group left last Thursday and then met with Buffett at the Hilton Hotel along with students from the University of Arizona, University of Tennessee, University Nebraska Omaha, University of Nebraska Lincoln, University of Peru, Gonzaga, University of Minnesota, Northwestern and the Wharton School of Business.

“It was great,” Rutherford said. “We were all sitting around getting settled and he walks in and goes up to the stage. Everyone clapped when he got up there and the first words out of his mouth were a joke, which is pretty typical for him if you’ve ever seen him speak. He’s really witty and funny. He gave an introductory speech, just something really short and we pretty much got right to the questions.”

Each school is limited to two questions during the session, and Rutherford said the Ole Miss contingent spent a lot of time working to make sure they came up with the correct questions.

“We had had several workshops on Fridays leading up to this to meet up and kind of determine what we were going to ask him,” Rutherford said. “He does this all the time and we really wanted to take good advantage and ask him a question that he hadn’t been asked before A, and B, ask him something we couldn’t just Google and find out.”

In the end, for one of their questions they decided to not go with a specific finance question, but instead one with broader implications.

“The first question we asked was if somehow his worth was reduced to just one million, then would he be able to do it all over again in today’s environment because the environment has changed so much since he started investing and buying companies,” Rutherford said. “He said he would be able to. He said it would be very difficult. He wouldn’t be able to do it in the exact same way, but he said he would be able to he thinks because he gets his edge from being so interested in the subject.”

The entire session lasted about two and a half hours, Rutherford said, with Buffett spending about eight minutes answering each question.

“There were some specific questions asked. There were some broader questions asked,” Rutherford said.” The takeaway as a whole that we got out of it that we really liked was there was a lot of sentimental value with what he talked about … He talks about being focused and surrounding yourself with people who are going to make you better, people who are going to challenge you, but also people who make you happy.”

Rutherford, who is an accounting major and is also getting a minor in finance, said he was “elated” about the entire experience.

“I really couldn’t even put it into words if I wanted to,” Rutherford said. “I felt incredibly fortunate, thankful. When I first found out I was accepted, I thought it was a mistake. It was an incredible feeling. From the moment I got accepted until now, I still can’t believe it. I feel incredibly fortunate. That is the main word I would use.”