Following a $50 million commitment from philanthropist Robert F. Smith ’85, CEO of Vista Equity Partners, Cornell will name the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in his honor, media relations announced today.
Smith’s gift will aim to aid the success of black and female students in Cornell’s College of Engineering. It will also create a Cornell Tech fellowship program to further unite ties between Cornell’s campuses in Ithaca and in New York City, according to the press release.
In appreciation of Smith’s support, the University will also name the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program, a new effort which will span Cornell Engineering and Cornell Tech. This program will select high school seniors who require financial aid and invite them to attend first Cornell Engineering to earn an undergraduate degree, and then Cornell Tech to earn a technical master’s degree, the release said.
President Elizabeth Garrett called Smith’s gift “extraordinary,” adding that it will allow Cornell to address the poor representation of women and minority students in engineering programs.
“Not only will [this gift] support a critical and rapidly expanding area of study — chemical and biomolecular engineering — but it will also allow the University to help address a national challenge: improving the representation of women and minorities in scientific research and development,” Garrett said in a statement.
Lance Collins, the dean of Cornell engineering, agreed and added that he believed Smith’s gift would make the engineering school “more accessible ever.”
“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,” he said in a statement.
Smith said his gift was partially inspired by the success he found after graduating with a degree from Cornell’s engineering program, adding that he hoped his gift would make the same experience available to a more diverse group of students.
“I credit much to my career success to being an engineer by training,” he said. “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.”
Along with Smith’s success at Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm, he is also a renowned philanthropist and the founding director of the Found II Foundation, a nonprofit organization which works to advance social change, preserve black culture and invest in entrepreneurship, according to his website.