As he accepted his Distinguished Alumni Award from Cornell Engineering on May 13, Robert F. Smith ’85, founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, announced a new gift of $15 million for engineering student aid, with a focus on assisting undergraduate students who come to Cornell from urban high schools, and graduate students who attended historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“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,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “His leadership in advancing equity and making higher education accessible to all students will have an impact for generations to come.”
The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes engineering alumni whose professional accomplishments bring distinction to the college. Smith received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Cornell before founding Vista, a private equity firm with more than $93 billion in managed assets. Widely considered one of the world’s most successful investors and a leading philanthropist, he came to campus to accept the 2020 Cornell Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award – an event that had been delayed by the pandemic.