On May 13, Robert Frederick Smith accepted his Distinguished Alumni Award from Cornell Engineering and announced a generous gift to his alma mater.
Smith, 59, received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Cornell before he founded Vista Equity Partners in 2001, a private equity and venture capital firm with more than $93 billion in assets.
The CEO currently serves on the Cornell Tech Council and is an emeritus member of the Cornell Engineering College Council.
After accepting his award, Smith decided to provide a generous gift to his alma mater and future STEM students.
The $15 million gift will help prop up an undergraduate scholarship and graduate student fellowship fund to provide financial aid to engineering students from historically underrepresented communities.
“It truly is an honor to receive the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Alumni Award,” Smith said after making the announcement. “My goal has always been to lift up and provide opportunity for those who have historically faced barriers to success. My hope is that these funds will elevate more students and afford them the opportunity to attend my alma mater and pursue careers in STEM, as well as continue to support the diverse pipeline of extraordinary talent that Cornell produces.”
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In an announcement from the Cornell Chronicle, President Martha E. Pollack said, “I am grateful to Robert for sharing our commitment to welcoming the most talented and promising students, regardless of background or ability to pay, and helping us ensure that cost never becomes an obstacle to a Cornell education. His leadership in advancing equity and making higher education accessible to all students will have an impact for generations to come.”
Lynden Archer, the Joseph Silbert Dean of Engineering, said, “This gift will create critical pathways for talented students to become the innovative, future-ready leaders that industry and academia desperately need. We are deeply grateful to Robert for expanding opportunities for our students, who – as he exemplifies – are prepared to excel and make meaningful impacts in essentially any field.”