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Billionaire philanthropist advises UA students

Bill Cummings speaks to UA students. (Photo by Emma Newell)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Entrepreneur Bill Cummings discussed his journey from growing up in modest Massachusetts to becoming a billionaire philanthropist in a lecture with UA students Monday morning.

Cummings told his story of starting by selling ice cream on his bicycle during summers to eventually founding the Cummings Foundation, which now gives away around $25 million a year to smaller foundations.

Cummings has continually built upon the opportunities in his life, which is a large part of entrepreneurship, he said.

The path of his initial corporate career changed when he bought a fruit punch business for $4,000 and then sold it for $1 million a mere six years later, he said. Cummings’s successful real estate career with Cummings Properties, the root of his wealth, came as a result.

Cummings offered his advice to students on how to work towards the level of success he has had. The key to success is hard work and saving, he said.

“My whole thing while working was how much more could I get than I was getting,” Cummings said. “It was how much more could I do than the person standing next to me.”

Along with his success, Cummings is committed to giving back.

Cummings and his wife, Joyce Cummings, a graduate of UA, were among the first people to sign the Giving Pledge, a campaign founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to donate a majority of their fortune.

Everyone should find small ways early in their life to start giving back, Cummings said. It doesn’t need to be sacrificial, he said.

Cummings said he was pleased with the turn out of students for the lecture. Kevin Whitaker, Executive Vice President of UA, was as well.

“It’s always special when someone comes and speaks on campus, but Bill Cummings is really special,” Whitaker said.

Cummings spoke in promotion of his autobiography, Starting Small and Making it Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist. One-hundred percent of proceeds go to the Cummings Foundation.


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