Columbia Business School at Columbia University announced on Jan. 24, 2022, the Robert F. Smith ’94 Scholarship Fund, established by a $10 million gift from Smith, a class of 1994 alumni. Starting in the 2022-2023 academic school year, 200 Columbia MBA students will receive partial or full scholarships from the program, which is intended to continue for one decade. The funds will go toward students “graduating [from] Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), from diverse backgrounds who have overcome significant hardships or challenges in their academic pursuits, or who have demonstrated a strong commitment to engaging principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to a Columbia press release.
When talking about the establishment of a new scholarship fund, Smith cited his experience at Columbia Business School and the impact it had on his life. “Columbia Business School saw something in me and helped propel me in my career, and I know that they will continue to empower the leaders of the future, providing them unparalleled opportunities right in the heart of our nation’s economy – New York City,” Smith said in Columbia’s announcement.
This is not the first gift that Smith has donated to his alma mater. In 2017, Smith donated $15 million to help the University fund the new Manhattanville campus, which opened in January 2022.
When asked why he chose to give to Columbia in 2017, Smith said the new campus expansion would be a great opportunity to “expand the number of people and types of people who will benefit from a Columbia education. Columbia is one of the most international universities on the planet.”
Helping Students Achieve Their Full Potential
Funding the next generation of business and civic leaders is a major focus of Smith’s philanthropic efforts. In 2016, he and the Fund II Foundation — an organization of which Smith is founding director and President — made separate gifts totaling $50 million to another of his alma maters, Cornell University. Smith graduated from Cornell’s School Of Engineering in 1985. The gift was made to support “chemical and biomolecular engineering and African-American and female students” at the college and, “create a unique fellowship program at Cornell Tech that further strengthens the New York City campus’s ties to engineering in Ithaca.”
Additionally, the Fund II Foundation launched the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) STEM Scholars Program to support “African American high school students who are determined to pursue careers in STEM fields.” The program received funding through a $48 million grant from the Fund II Foundation in 2016, and it distributed $25,000 to 500 students over the course of five years to give them “scholarships, internships, mentorship programs and other tools to help them reach their goals.” To date, the program has helped students in 29 states attend 71 competitive colleges and universities.
Learn more about the UNCF students in 29 states who were able to attend elite colleges and universities because of the STEM scholarship.