Billionaire Robert F. Smith Gives $50 Million to Cornell Engineering School

African American billionaire, generously gifts Cornell's School of Engineering

Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith (Image: File)
Vista Equity Partners CEO Robert F. Smith (Image: File)

Robert F. Smith, the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, made a $50 million commitment to Cornell University’s School Of Engineering, his alma mater.

[Related: Rep. Cleaver: African American Inclusion In Tech Is “Common Sense”]

His gift is being reciprocated. The school will be renamed the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell. The donation will also fund the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program. The program will focus on providing financial aid, particularly for minority and female students.

“Robert’s generosity will not only elevate our School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, but it will ensure it becomes more accessible than ever,” said Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Cornell Engineering. “I believe an affordable educational path from engineering in Ithaca to Cornell Tech in New York City, for those who wouldn’t otherwise be offered such an opportunity, will produce some of the sharpest minds in engineering and technology. I’m thankful Robert shares this vision and is making it a reality.”

Smith, who is No. 1 on the BE100s Private Equity list, was also recently listed on the Forbes 400—the magazine’s yearly list of the 400 richest Americans. He is the only African American male on the list. Under his leadership, Vista Equity Partners has become one of the world’s most successful investment houses. He received a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell in 1985.

“I have had the privilege of being a Cornell graduate with a degree in engineering,” said Smith. “I credit much to my career success to being an engineer by training. Engineers solve problems and fix things. Along my career, I have become increasingly concerned by the lack of diversity across the engineering and tech disciplines. My direct intention here is to work directly with Cornell Tech and Cornell Engineering, in New York City and in Ithaca, to create direct on-ramps for African-Americans and young women to enter tech so that they can help lead us into the fourth industrial revolution.”


  • Izoto

    Always gotta show love to the alma mater if you liked your time there, good for him.

    • YouMustLearn

      SLAVE MENTALITY…

      • Izoto

        Why are you talking about yourself like that?

        • hernandayoleary2

          BUUUURN!

    • YouMustLearn

      SLAVE MENTALITY…

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  • What an outstanding gesture!

    • YouMustLearn

      HOUSE NEGROS ARE EVERYWHERE…

    • YouMustLearn

      HOUSE NEGROS ARE EVERYWHERE…

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  • Davina

    God Bless. There is no success, without being thankful and making a path to bring others along.

    • bellier

      Agree! This is an incredible gesture on Mr. Smith’s part!

  • Uh why not an HBCU?!

    • YouMustLearn

      BECAUSE THEY ARE RICH WITH A SLAVE MENTALITY… THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS BEING ACCEPTED

      • Jay

        why do black people try to claim braids. It’s illogical to me. This mentality is one of the many “root of all problems” for blacks in America.

        • why

          That makes literally no sense to this conversation.

          • Jay

            hehe. I know. boredom

    • bellier

      The fund will provide scholarships for minorities and women to attend the Cornell’s school of engineering. Cornell is ranked higher than any HBCU; this fund provides an opportunity for African American students to receive education from a prestigious institution for free!

      • ok

        Yeah, if only they would accept us.

    • guest

      Maybe because this is where he went to school??? Maybe because there are black kids that go to schools other than HBCU’s???

      I understand the need and relevance of HBCU’s but what I don’t understand is why black children that attend PWI’s seemingly receive less support from the black community.

      I was offered a full ride to an HBCU in my state and I chose to go to a PWI because that same HBCU constantly has embezzlement and accreditation troubles. It’s pathetic that more of our schools can’t get the administrative and organizational aspects of being a learning institution in check.

      • lisalisa

        please! there was so much academic fraud at UNC Chapel Hill, but no one wants to talk about it. It goes on everywhere. don’t come crying when your precious little PWI alumni wear blackface at homecoming

  • YouMustLearn

    I NEVER UNDERSTAND THIS SLAVE MENTALITY… WHY OL WHY OL WHY… WE AS A PEOPLE HAVE SOOOOO MUCH TO LEARN.. NOT EVEN THE WHITE MAN’S EDUCATION WILL MAKE US SMART… DR DRE WITH USA AND THIS CHARACTER WITH THIS… WE LOVE THE MASTA SOOO MUCH.. MONEY WITH A PLANTATION MENTALITY.

    • Jay

      black people are in their own circle of life. They feed off one another and make themselves targets by other black people, whites just swoop in, and finish the job while making bank.

  • guest

    I think his act in commendable.

    I would love to talk to someone like him about his choice of mate. This smart, successful black man with black parents chose to make a family with a white woman.

    Why? I can name 5 women on the fly that I know personally that are brilliant, successful, kind and beautiful but this man with a choice of so many women wants to share his life with someone that knows nothing of his cultural experience. Weird.

    • hernandayoleary2

      We got 3 black billionaires, MJ, Michael jordan, and this guy, and none of the american black billionaires marry their own race, black american elite bourgeoise are diseased.

      he works in my industry, which is very white dominated, he probably just wants white acceptance and is a disgrace in my view. His success was probably driven by what I call the Clarence Thomas inferiority complex. Too bad he couldn’t be african american.

      • Jay

        actually MJ was in debt, worth over a billion, but debt killed him. He’s actually prolly richer now that he’s dead. R.I.P. MJ (Micahel Jackson)

      • A818

        Michael Jordan married a black woman the first time, I think.

    • Jay

      why, why choose white women. Could it be there skin and there pink p*ssy go together in perfect harmony, that milky porcelain skin, the eyes, the hair, the way their voice and the sound of their pitch of voice is so mesmerizing…Ohh it hurts talking about these white bunnies. They love and care, without the attitude. #gobunniesgo!!

  • Jay

    My man got himself a nice young white tenderoni.

  • Why are we dissing this man? He has made the best contribution ever to our young people! So what he married is married to a white woman!

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