Cornell University has announced a $50 million commitment from alumnus Robert Frederick Smith ('85) in support of the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and diversity initiatives in its College of Engineering.
A joint commitment from Smith and the Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is a founding director, the gift will establish an endowment for the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, a significant portion of which will be dedicated to scholarship and fellowship support for groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and technology — particularly African-American and female students. The gift also will create a fund for diversity initiatives in engineering and the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program, which will invite African-American and female high school seniors with financial need to pursue an undergraduate degree at the College of Engineering on Cornell's Ithaca campus, followed by a one-year technical master's degree at Cornell Tech in New York City. In recognition of the gift, the school will be renamed the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell.
According to Cornell, the gift is one of the largest ever from an African-American philanthropist to an institution of higher education.
"Robert's gift creates an extraordinary opportunity for Cornell. Not only will it 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," said Cornell president Elizabeth Garrett.
"I credit much of my career success to being an engineer by training. Engineers solve problems and fix things," said Smith, founder, chair, and CEO of private equity fund Vista Equity Partners. "Along my career I have become increasingly concerned by the lack of diversity across the engineering and tech disciplines. 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."