Billionaire Smith Drives Diversity In Engineering At Cornell

One of the world’s richest men is paying it forward to his alma mater in a big way.

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Since 2016, Robert Frederick Smith’s large financial contribution to the Cornell tech community has funded diversity in the next generation of tech allstars.

Smith, himself an African American and a graduate of Cornell and Columbia Business School, has contributed $50 million to the school via his Fund II Foundation. The funds are earmarked to provide scholarships specifically for students who are racial and ethnic minorities. The scholarships also emphasize active recruitment of female students into the Cornell Engineering community.

The fund also oversees a fellowship which links Cornell Tech to Cornell University’s College of Engineering.

In honor of his contributions to the Cornell entrepreneurship community, the university subsequently renamed the school the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biological Engineering.

Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that manages over $26 billion in capital assets. The firm has a diverse portfolio of tech investments with 35 companies with 42,000 employees worldwide.

Prior to founding Vista, Smith worked in investment banking with Goldman Sachs and at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents.

This is not Smith’s first foray into philanthropy. Smith is also Chairman of the Board of Carnegie Hall and Chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He was also the recipient of the entrepreneur of the year award from Cornell University in 2017 for his contributions to the Cornell entrepreneurship community at large.

Cornell Tech officially began operations in 2012 on Manhattan and moved to a more spacious 5-acre campus on Roosevelt Island in 2017. The school, which operates in conjunction with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, has also seen contributions from Atlantic Philanthropies, Verizon Communications and Bloomberg Philanthropies, which contributed a $100 million gift in 2014.