If you still haven’t heard of billionaire Robert F. Smith, it’s time to start paying attention.
The Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners has lived his life mostly under the radar, granting limited interviews about how he’s built a private equity empire and net worth of $2.5 billion. He is No. 274 on the Forbes 400 List of Richest Americans and is richer than basketball legend Michael Jordan and BET founder Bob Johnson.
Although the 54-year-old Smith has kept his life and work mostly behind the scenes, his business moves to support the black community are hard to ignore.
Smith’s $20 million gift to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture (NMAAHC) came only second to Oprah Winfrey. He’s also backed up his commitment to increasing the number of black students in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) with support for youth coding programs and a $50 million gift to his alma mater, Cornell University, to bolster African-American and female students in the College of Engineering.
And he isn’t just writing checks.
Recently, hundreds of young black professionals and graduate students filled the International House at the Columbia Black Business Student Association’s 35th annual conference to hear him speak. Smith, a Columbia Business School alum, dropped knowledge on everything from economic empowerment to how to build the next generation of leaders in the black community.
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