Warren Buffett's rise as the world's most successful investor is the stuff of legend. Born during the Great Depression in Nebraska, Buffett demonstrated keen business abilities at a young age. By 13, Buffett was dabbling in stocks, working odd jobs, and selling his own horseracing tip sheet. Known as the "Oracle of Omaha," he made his first million soon after he turned 30. His approach to value investing, combined with his influence over the companies he invests in, and utilization of their competitive advantages, has paved the way for Buffett to become one of the most influential businessmen ever. In 2015 Forbes listed Buffett as the third richest person in the world.
Buffett credits his time at Columbia University as being critical to his professional success. After being rejected by the Harvard Business School, Buffett enrolled in graduate studies at Columbia Business School in 1949. He studied economics under legendary Benjamin Graham. Along with his fellow finance professor David Dodd, Graham had developed methods of identifying and buying securities priced well below their true value.
“I had read this book [Security Analysis] by the two of them, so I wrote them a letter…” Buffett later explained. “I said, ‘Dear Professor Dodd. I thought you guys were dead, but now that I found out that you’re alive and teaching at Columbia, I would really like to come.’”
Buffett maintains that, next to his father, Graham was the most influential person in his life. Flying through his graduate studies at Columbia, Buffett was the only student ever to earn an A+ in one of Graham's classes. Later, Buffett would make his fortune using the principles of Graham and Dodd's Security Analysis.
Despite his vast wealth, Buffett is known to be a shockingly down-to-earth person who regularly checks in on his alma mater. At least twice so far, he’s returned to Columbia to meet with long-time friend Bill Gates, for a lively discussion about a wide range of topics including philanthropic goals, politics, and the future of investing. During one of these popular chats, Buffett surprised audience members with his rendition of the Columbia fight song “We Own New York.”
Likewise, in 2002 Buffett was the guest speaker during Columbia Business School's seminar on value investing. Later in 2015, in honor of Columbia Business School's Centennial, Buffet returned to sit down with Dean Glenn Hubbard to discuss the past, and future, of the School. When asked about the most important lessons learned in business during the past 100 years, Buffett smiled and immediately replied that, "The best lessons are the ones I learned at Columbia."
Standing on the shoulders of his alma mater, Buffett is known for his visionary abilities. Looking forward, he's already declared that 80 percent of his wealth will be donated to a handful of private charitable foundations. Philanthropic, hard-working, and self-made, the "superinvestor" from Nebraska is widely regarded as the embodiment of the American dream.