Five Things About Robert F. Smith You Might Not Know

Robert F. Smith CEO Headshot

Robert F. Smith is well known as the Founder, CEO and Chairman of Vista Equity Partners. However, while he is widely recognized as one of the most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs in the world, many people are unaware of how active he is as a philanthropist and promoter of culture. Here are five things that many people don’t know about Smith’s other endeavors.

  1. Smith founded a charitable organization dedicated to expanding access to the outdoors

Lincoln Hills Cares was founded by Robert F. Smith and Matthew Burkett to make the outdoors accessible to the next generation and help build young leaders through outdoor education and exploration. The location also has an important history — Lincoln Hills opened in 1922 as the only western outdoor getaway accessible to African Americans during a time when most outdoor recreation in the U.S. was segregated or white only.

  1. Smith is an unabashed music lover (and even named his sons after musicians). 

Smith was exposed early to music by his father who was a talented musician and played six or seven instruments. He loved classical music and the opera and passed that love onto Smith. Today, Smith is a board member of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, the largest single jazz musician archive in the world. Two of his sons, Hendrix and Legend, were named after legendary rock icons.

  1. In 2016, Smith was elected as chairman of the Carnegie Hall board.

Smith serves in a leadership role for Carnegie Hall, where he works to build on the extraordinary legacy of this important institution and expand access to music and the arts to all. Smith was the first African American to hold this position in the institution’s history. 

  1. Smith was the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge.

In 2017, Smith signed the “Giving Pledge” — joining the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and others in committing to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. He was the first African American to sign the pledge and has committed to using his donation to support his community. Learn more about Smith’s philanthropic work.

  1. He called Bell Labs every week for five months until they gave him a job. 

Smith learned early that persistence is a key to success. When he was in high school, he landed an internship at the prestigious Bell Labs that was typically reserved for college students after calling again and again until they gave him an opportunity. Learn more about Smith’s early life and career.