Tuesday, October 19

Bling Bling Brokers for Din Din

The board of trustees for my institution occasionally meets on campus. When this happens the President’s office farms the trustees out in groups to have dinner at faculty homes. My wife and I had four trustees over recently.

While we are semi-experienced hosting dinner parties, this was the first time we’ve had adults so far out of our socio-economic band (we’ve had many well-to-do students over for dinner, but after dorm living and institutional food they think anything we serve them is heavenly). How far out of our league were these trustees? Some of these guys fly to campus on their private jets. One of them recently handed a personal check, nonchalantly and in a plain envelope, to one of the president’s assistants. It was for $10,000,000. A PERSONAL check for 10 million! Suffice it to say my wife and I live nicely, but after making the mortgage and car payments I don’t have 10M sitting around (spare or otherwise). I did just pledge $120.00 (the 00 cents seems to make it look bigger) to my undergraduate school, but I had been drinking wine when they called and was in a good mood…

Planning dinner was hard knowing that these guys (our group was all men) are used to eating meals in the best restaurants in the world (I mean world literally). Mac-N-Cheez seemed like a poor choice, and burgers with the DJ secret ingredients (some red wine, onion soup mix and parmesan cheese) also didn’t make the list. When I was wine shopping I spent some time deciding between an $8 a bottle wine (something we’d have at home if it were just us) and a $12 a bottle wine (something we’d have for a special occasion). After sweating this decision for a couple of minutes, I realized my guests are used to drinking $25 to $50 wine and would think both of my choices taste like cheap wine. I grabbed the $8 bottles figuring if they are going to think it is cheap I might as well save 4 bucks a bottle.

When it was all said and done we had a great time. These guys have stories to tell, and their job at the institution is difficult. Their charge is to make the institution a better place, and to come up with the money needed to institute new initatives, buildings, etc. Several different contingencies have their ears and think they know what "better" is. Faculty, administration, current students, parents, alums and donors all think they are the most important voice on campus matters. Tough job.

Interacting with the trustees was fun and drove home what upper-income really is. Less than 1.5% of US households earn $250k a year or more, and these folks live a very different lifestyle (I *THINK* I know who "Martha" is in the statement "Yes, it is right next to Martha's house". My understanding is Martha is at "camp" right now...). On the whole, though, the ones I met with were reasonable, smart, funny and interesting people. I’ll offer to do it again next year. Maybe they'll offer me a ride in their jet...