In College You Get to Have Lunch with Famous People

Today I had a FREE and delicious lunch of chicken-topped salad and berry-topped cheesecake. For a poor college student, this would b exciting enough by itself.

But did I mention that I was sitting six inches to the right of Secretary Paul O’Neill, the United States Secretary of the Treasury from 2001-2002 during the Bush administration? I literally bumped elbows with the man.

Secretary O’Neill has several ties to the College. His daughter and son-in-law (who also attended lunch) are alums, and he also has a grandson who is currently a junior here. O’Neill spent the morning speaking to classes ranging from Professor McInerney’s Econ 101 to graduate students in the MBA program. And at the close of our lunch, he was already running behind for a meeting with President Reveley. Ahh..the busy lives of powerful, famous people.

If you aren’t familiar with how important the Treasury Secretary is, just do a quick Google or Wikipedia. The Secretary of the Treasury is head of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and they are considered to be the principal economic advisor to the President. Also, I was serious about that whole “signing every dollar bill” thing. Pull out your wallet. See the tiny signature below and to the right of George Washington’s head? That’s the Secretary of the Treasury.

bonooneilghanaSome of my favorite moments from lunch were spent listening to Secretary O’Neill talk about his tour of Africa that he took with Bono (yes, THE Bono, of U2). It was hard not to crack up when he talked about switching glasses with Bono for an afternoon (Bono’s snazzy blue wrap-arounds for O’Neill’s dainty prescription pair) or when Secretary O’Neill’s daughter, Julie, told the story of driving through Ghana in the back of a jeep while crouched down next to Bono. Crazy?!?!

It was also really exciting to listen to Secretary O’Neill discuss a topic that’s extremely important to him: health economics. I’m currently taking an upper-level Economics class called Health Economics, and my professor was actually the one who got me the invite to today’s lunch! It was pretty cool that nearly everything Secretary O’Neill mentioned was something we’ve discussed in class this spring — insurance, malpractice, hospital efficiency, Medicare reimbursements, etc. It makes you feel pretty smart to be able to talk policy with someone who served on the President’s Cabinet. 🙂

There were only 14 people at this lunch, and only four of us were undergraduate students. Opportunities like these are just another one of the perks of attending a top school like William and Mary that also remains small and close-knit. Here’s what I mean:

Two years ago, I made a last-minute switch to an Economics major. I needed a professor to serve as my advisor –QUICK–and a professor I didn’t even know, Professor Mellor, agreed!

A year after that, Professor Mellor needed a student to help out as a research assistant, so she contacted some of her advisees. I’d been wanting to try out research with a professor, so I signed up for the job!

Six months later, I needed a final class to complete my Econ major, so I decided that since I’d had such a good research experience with Professor Mellor, I would sign up for her Spring 2009 Health Economics class.

Next thing you know, it’s this past Tuesday and she was asking me and two other students if we were free to have lunch with the former Secretary of the Treasury this Friday. Next thing you know, I’m sitting right next to Secretary O’Neill in the Board of Visitors Dining Room, listening to him speak. Next thing you know, he turns to me and offers me a job that pays $1 million start…ok just kidding. I made that last part up. 🙂

BUT, the point is: come to the College. I guarantee you’ll meet at the very very least, one famous person before you graduate.

Maybe next time Secretary O’Neill stops by, he’ll bring Bono too. 🙂

Categories: Academics, Campus Life, Student Blogs

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