For the first time in its history, TIME Magazine’s 100 “Most Influential People” list includes three Cornell alumni.
Robert F. Smith ’85, Tsai Ing-wen LLM ’80 and Anthony Fauci M.D. ’66 represented the University in the rankings this year. Fauci and Ing-wen fell into the ”leaders” category, and Smith was listed in the ”titans” category.
With its first publication in 1999, TIME 100 has become a widely recognized annual publication. The list consists of five categories: pioneers, artists, leaders, titans and icons. When choosing who will make the highly anticipated list, the editors at TIME consider many factors, all of which come down to one qualifying trait.
“One way or another they each embody a breakthrough: they broke the rules, broke the record, broke the silence, broke the boundaries to reveal what we’re capable of,” said Nancy Gibbs, a former editor in chief at TIME.
Two Cornellians were featured in the leaders section, headlined by Fauci. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has become a household name in the U.S. for his expertise and leadership on handling COVID-19.
“Dr. Fauci doesn’t sugarcoat his words and refuses to be pressured by politicians,” wrote Jimmy Kimmel, who wrote Dr. Fauci’s profile for TIME. “He delivers the truth, as difficult as it may be to hear, earnestly and with one goal: to save lives. His courage and candor have earned our trust. We are all fortunate to have a man of his wisdom, experience and integrity to help us navigate these difficult waters.”
Fauci received his medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical University, graduated first in his class and completed his residency at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, now known as NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
The other Cornellian in the leaders category is Tsai Ing-wen, the first female president of Taiwan.
In her profile for the list, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) described Tsai as a “signal lamp casting out China’s looming shadow, conveying to the world that Taiwan will not acquiesce to the Chinese Communist Party.” Tsai’s leadership has proven to be strong and reliable through her part of Taiwan’s success in containing the spread of COVID-19, along with her unrelenting resistance to the Chinese government.
Tsai received her master of law degree from Cornell Law School in 1980. First elected as the president of Taiwan in 2016, Tsai faced increased pressure from China to re-establish control of the island, which separated from China in 1949 but never officially declared its independence. She maintained her stance on sovereignty and has since been re-elected in 2020.
Featured in the titans section was Robert F. Smith, the founder, chairman and CEO of investment firm Vista Equity Partners. Smith is “perhaps the savviest investor in America today,” wrote Samuel L. Jackson and Latanya Richardson Jackson. Smith graduated from Cornell with a degree in chemical engineering and received his MBA from Columbia University in 1994.
Since completing his education, Robert F. Smith has worked in investment banking, advised mergers and acquisitions for companies such as Apple and Microsoft and founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm.
Smith is not only featured as a titan for his success in business. “His most important investments over the years have been in people,” Samuel and Latanya wrote. In 2019, Robert F. Smith donated $34 million to Morehouse College’s Class of 2019, giving students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. He has recognized the value of investing wealth back into people and their communities to make a better future, the TIME article read.
“If we can perpetuate this priority, we just may have a shot at creating a better world for future generations,” Samuel and Latanya wrote.
Smith attributes much of his success to his time in Ithaca.
“Cornell was such a wonderful experience in a fundamental time in my life,” Smith said while receiving the Cornell Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2017. “Cornell believes in rigor. We bring a different degree of rigor.”