Robert F. Smith, African-American businessman, investor and philanthropist, born 1 December 1962 in Colorado to two parents with PhDs, Mr. Smith trained as an engineer at Cornell University, earning his BS in Chemical Engineering. Following his MBA from Columbia Business School with honors, Mr. Smith worked at Kraft General Foods, where he earned two United States and two European patents.
In 1994, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking, first in New York and then in Silicon Valley. As Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage, he executed and advised on over $50 billion in merger and acquisition activity with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay, and Yahoo. He was the first person in San Francisco at Goldman to focus solely on tech mergers and acquisitions.
Mr. Smith’s business achievements and global philanthropic works have received recognition from numerous entities – including the Morehouse Candle Award in Business and Philanthropy, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award, the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, the Pierre Toussaint Award from the Archdiocese of New York, the Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Ron Brown Scholar Program American Journey Award.
Mr. Smith is the Chairman of Carnegie Hall and the Chair of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. He serves on the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, as a Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. In 2017, Smith signed on to The Giving Pledge, the only African American to do so. His gift of $20 million was the largest by an individual donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among many other philanthropic activities.
Robert F. Smith Full Biography and Profile
Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO, of Vista Equity Partners, Vista is a private equity fund that manages equity capital commitments of over $14Bn and oversees a portfolio of over 30 software companies employing over 30,000 employees worldwide.
Vista Equity Partners was named as the world’s top performing private equity firm in 2014. Founded in 2000, Vista focuses exclusively on enterprise software, data and technology enabled solutions sectors. Vista has managed capital for over one hundred limited partners, including many prominent public, private and corporate pension plans, sovereign wealth funds, endowments, family offices, and high net worth individuals.
Prior to founding Vista, Robert was the Co-Head of Enterprise Systems and Storage at Goldman Sachs in New York and Silicon Valley. Mr. Smith earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University and his MBA from Columbia Business School.
Mr. Smith has been recognized for his business achievements and global philanthropic works, including the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, the Ripple of Hope Award from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, and the Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award.
Mr. Smith is the Chairman of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, and a Trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco. Mr. Smith is a Board Member of Carnegie Hall.
Robert F. Smith lifted a huge burden off the graduating class of Morehouse College when he announced during his commencement speech that he would pay off the student loan debt of more than 300 students. In an astonishing commencement address, billionaire Robert F. Smith announced on Sunday 19 May 2019 that he will wipe out student debt for the entire 2019 of 400 graduating class at Morehouse College. The class of 2019 and their teachers were stunned at the news before breaking into applause, prompting cheers and more than a few tears from shocked listeners to his commencement speech.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus. This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” Mr Smith told the graduates on Sunday.
The gift is worth an estimated $40 million, according to the Associated Press, and Smith said his family would pay off the loans through a grant. News of Smith’s generosity quickly went viral, but unlike other high-profile billionaires Smith has a bit less name recognition.
Aaron Mitchom, 22, wept at the news that he would not have to pay back $200,000 in loans he had taken out to fund his finance studies, AP news agency reports.
“I don’t have to live off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” one stunned graduate told the Associated Press. “I was shocked. My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”
“I was shocked,” he said. “My heart dropped. We all cried. In the moment it was like a burden had been taken off.”
Morehouse College president David A Thomas was quoted by CNN as saying: “When you have to service debt, the choices about what you can go do in the world are constrained.
“The grant gives them the liberty to follow their dreams, their passions.”
Though Smith’s gift to the 2019 graduates of Morehouse College may be his most eye-catching philanthropic effort, it isn’t his first. In 2017, Smith signed on to the Giving Pledge, joining a group of ultra-wealthy individuals — including Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett — who have publicly committed to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. He’s the first African-American to sign the pledge, according to Forbes.
In addition to his approximately $40 million dollar gift to Morehouse College graduates, Smith had previously announced a $1.5 million gift to the historically African American, all-male college. In 2016, Smith made a $20 million dollar gift to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. After Smith donated $50 million to his alma mater in 2016, Cornell renamed its school of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after him.
Smith is also the founding director and President of the Fund II Foundation, which makes grants related to African American cultural preservation, human rights, environmental conservation, music education and “sustaining the American values of entrepreneurship, empowerment, innovation and security.”
Smith is a big believer in paying it forward.
He is also an avid fly fisherman.
In 2015, Smith married model Hope Dworaczyk in a lavish ceremony on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, featuring performances by John Legend, Seal and Brian McKnight. Dworaczyk was named Playboy’s playmate of the Year in 2010 and was a host and co-producer for the Canada-based show “Inside Fashion” on E! The couple has two children together, and Smith has three other children from a previous marriage.
“I’m here to tell you that you are enough” — Robert F. Smith
“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know. Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward.” — Robert F. Smith
- Robert F. Smith Biography and Profile (Robert F. Smith)