David Tepper, MSIA ’82, president and founder of Appaloosa Management and benefactor to the Tepper School of Business, visited the school on April 30, 2015, for a Q&A and networking reception with graduate and undergraduate business students. Eager to gain insights and advice from Tepper, students, faculty, and staff quickly filled the standing-room-only auditorium as well as an overflow room where a livestream was available.
Dean Robert Dammon welcomed Tepper, stating, “It is a pleasure to welcome David back and be able to thank him for his support. He has been such an important contributor to the school.”
Alex Brown, MBA ’15, and Kera Bartlett, MBA ’16, the outgoing and incoming presidents of the Graduate Business Association, respectively, provided opening questions for Tepper, first addressing the motivation behind his generous donation of $67 million to build the Tepper Quadrangle.
“In order for Carnegie Mellon and the Tepper School to rise to the next level, they must be different and innovative,” he said. “The building will serve as a center for innovation that will draw people from across campus and beyond … it’s going to be a very unique place and the place for entrepreneurship, while still maintaining our strengths in other areas.”
Following the opening remarks from Tepper, Bartlett and Brown, students in the audience were given the opportunity to ask questions of Tepper. Among the student questions was the request that Tepper elaborate on his success as an investor.
“One of the great things [about Appaloosa Management] is that we have always been investors rather than asset gatherers. Some people gather assets for business growth and then neglect to return money to their investors, but we never function that way,” he said. “And we’ve never been afraid to take a little bit of a loss. In order to make money, sometimes you have to lose money.”
Another student asked Tepper to provide his theories regarding business trends impacting the Tepper School in the coming years.
“One element of the new building that I insisted on is flexibility because I know that things are going to change quickly,” he explained. “It is nearly impossible to predict what the trends will be in 20 years — and to know that it is impossible and be willing to adapt is always good. You have to pick up as much knowledge as you can and know how to use it in different ways.”
When asked for guidance for setting and achieving goals, Tepper directed the conversation to a more personal note, explaining that while his goals as an investor are important, he also puts a particular focus on being the best father and son that he can be.
He attributed much of his personal fulfillment and achievement to his philanthropic endeavors – which include the Robin Hood Foundation, Junior Achievement, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and the David Tepper Charitable foundation – saying, “I’ve always been charitable … this idea of charity and giving back was always inside me and always a goal of mine. I really believe that charity is good for your soul.”
In a closing question about career advice, Tepper stressed the importance of finding your niche and practicing ethical behavior.
“It is so important to be honest with yourself and never do anything that you aren’t comfortable with,” he said. “If you observe ethical business practices and decline to be involved in situations that you disagree with, I’m sure you’ll find that it never hurts your career. It never hurts to be ethical.”
If you can get lucky enough to find a job that gives you great experience early in your career, I think that is also really important,” Tepper added. “Gain knowledge; do things that make you happy; and always be honest.”
See more photos from David Tepper's visit.