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Butler Magazine

Bright Lights to Financial Heights: Renee Tabben ’94

Renee Tabben

By Evie Schultz ’16

When Renee Tabben ’94 arrived at Butler as a freshman, she dreamed of Broadway. She ended up— happily—closer to Wall Street.

“All I wanted to do was perform,” the Cincinnati native said. “I was absolutely focused on moving to New York and becoming wildly successful in musical theatre.”

But she also wanted a backup plan. Encouraged by her parents and Owen Schaub, the Department Head of Theatre at the time, Tabben declared an Arts Administration Major with a concentration in Theatre. During her time at Butler she performed with the Butler Chorale and participated in a variety of Jordan College of Fine Arts (JCFA), now currently named the Jordan College of the Arts (JCA), productions.

Her first job in musical theatre came two weeks after graduation at a summer stock theatre in Maine (thanks to an introduction from Bernard Wurger, a Butler Theater Professor). That opportunity led to several others at theatres across the country, but by 1997, Tabben wanted a change of pace.

Renee left New York, returning to her hometown of Cincinnati to consider going to law school. Before enrolling, she landed a temporary job at Fidelity Investments. The job required her to be a quick study and to communicate effectively—two skills she had honed while performing.

From there, an unexpected career in finance took off. Tabben went on to start a financial planning practice and earn an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University.

Now she is the Market Executive of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in West Michigan. She is responsible for seven offices across the state in a role she said is incredibly dynamic, people focused, and personally rewarding.

“Theatre has a human, emotional, raw core,” she said. “When I began engaging with clients around their financial lives, I realized the connection with the person—their emotions about money, was the essential element to helping clients achieve their purpose for their wealth. My experience with communicating with audiences and actively listening helped me to connect with people. My business education in Arts Administration reinforced my value in the business world.”

That connection, Tabben said, is easier with the help of her Butler education.

“There is no way I ever thought I would be a Market Executive at Merrill Lynch,” she said. “But so many of those skills I learned at JCA are highly transferrable.”

“At Butler, what you’re learning can be valuable at a variety of careers. Stay open-minded—don’t limit yourself to what you think you can do with your degree.”