Robert F. Smith

NET WORTH: $5 billion, estimated

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Cofounder of Vista Equity Partners

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Entrepreneurship, Human Rights, Environment, Black Causes

OVERVIEW: Smith is also president of the Fund II Foundation, which lists several interests, including entrepreneurship, the environment, music education, human rights, and preserving the African-American experience. Smith is a major benefactor of his alma mater Cornell, and recently signed the Giving Pledge.

BACKGROUND: The son of two Ph.D.s, Smith convinced Bell Labs to give him an internship when he was still at his Denver, Colorado, high school. Smith subsequently earned a chemical engineering degree from Cornell and an MBA from Columbia. He worked in M&A at Goldman Sachs before cofounding Vista Equity Partners, a private equity fund that manages equity capital commitments of over $14 billion and oversees a portfolio of over 30 software companies.

ISSUES:

EDUCATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Smith and his Fund II Foundation recently gave $50 million to establish an endowment for the Cornell University School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The bulk of the funds are "dedicated to scholarship and fellowship support for groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and technology — particularly African-American and female students." The money also created a fund for diversity initiatives in engineering and established the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program. Fund II also gave $40 million to UNCF, the minority education organization.

Fund II has also partnered with The Opportunity Network (OppNet), which "levels the playing field for low-income high school and college students by providing access to college and career success." The foundation recently funded the Together We Rise Family Fellowship Program, which "supports former foster youth in their efforts to gain a university, community college or trade school education."

In 2019, Smith gave the commencement address at Morehouse College and announced that he would pay off student loans for every member of the Atlanta HBCU’s graduating class, which could cost up to $40 million.

HUMAN RIGHTS: Fund II Foundation is concerned with human rights injustices both at home and abroad. The foundation has bankrolled Unlikely Heroes, which supports safe homes and restoration to child victims of sex slavery around the globe, and another outfit called Senior Support Services, which received a three-year grant from the foundation.

ENVIRONMENT: Fund II Foundation made a $9.3 million donation to Global Wildlife Conservation, set up a decade ago with the help of Smith's business partner Brian Sheth, who chairs the organization. Fund II Foundation also recently gave National Parks Foundation nearly $39 million, and purchased Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home in Atlanta from the National Park Service.

BLACK CAUSES: One of the foundation's focus areas is called "Cultural conservation: preserving the African-American Experience." It is worth noting that Smith is chairman of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and also held a leadership role in the MLK Memorial Project in Washington, D.C. It remains to be seen what kind of work this grantmaking category involves, but Smith recently gave $20 million to support the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, funding a digitization program to preserve the family histories of all black Americans as well as community outreach. Smith also once supported a youth empowerment program called Lincoln Hills Experience. As a youth, Smith vacationed with his family in Lincoln Hills,  one of the few resorts where African-Americans could rent or buy vacation cabins; it was frequented by such notables as Duke Ellington and Zora Neale Hurston.

HEALTH: Fund II Foundation made a $27 million donation to Susan G. Komen for breast cancer research. Smith also gave $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to fund research on African-American men and aid veterans who are battling prostate cancer.

LOOKING FORWARD: Smith is only in his 50s and still very much engaged in business, but his philanthropy is ramping up. The Fund II Foundation outfit has a small staff but is open to applications.

CONTACT: