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)

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.

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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.”