In January 2022, Columbia University will open its new Manhattanville campus in New York City’s West Harlem neighborhood. The 17-acre campus will be home to Columbia’s Business School, and features learning spaces, study rooms, a career management center, and an alumni suite. One of the oldest business schools in the world, the Columbia Business School opened in 1916 to 11 full-time faculty members and 61 students.
In 2003, Columbia began working with leaders in West Harlem to develop a campus that would not only include a space for academic research, but provide new middle-income jobs for New Yorkers. The Manhattanville campus was approved in 2009, and there have been more than 500 individual donations to push the project over the finish line. In October 2021, film studio executive David Geffan donated $75 million toward the Manhattanville move. Other donors include investor Henry Kravis, businessman Arthur Samberg, and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners Robert F. Smith.
Smith’s Relationship with Columbia Business School
Smith earned his MBA with honors from Columbia Business School in 1994, and was elected as his class’s commencement speaker. When he began attending Columbia, Smith enrolled in the School’s joint JD/MBA program. However, after speaking with various industry leaders, he discovered his interest in investment strategy and changed programs. Smith has served on the School’s Board of Overseers since 2015.
In 2017, he personally donated $15 million to the school to help reach its $500 million fundraising goal for the Manhattanville campus. When asked about the move, Smith emphasized the need for Columbia to “expand its reach and, through that reach, expand the number of people and types of people who will benefit from a Columbia education.” Smith continued saying,“It is a good time to be part of this transition, because Manhattanville will stand the test of time; it will be viewed as one of the major expansion points of this great institution.”
At Columbia Business School’s Annual Dinner in 2017, Smith received the Distinguished Leadership in Business Award for his leadership and commitment to the university. While accepting the award, Smith emphasized the need to support the next generation of changemakers. “We desperately need to invest in those who aren’t afraid of taking responsibility for these consequential choices,” Smith said. “We do it to invest in the thinkers, doers, and leaders who won’t just follow the arc of history, but bend it. And that’s why I’m investing in Columbia.”
He is also a recipient of the Columbia Black Business Students Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Learn more about Smith’s involvement with Columbia’s new Manhattanville campus.