On January 29, 2021, philanthropist and entrepreneur Robert F. Smith joined students and staff members from the six Eagle Academies for their 14th “Eagle Up Fridays” Town Hall session. This week’s virtual Town Hall was appropriately named “Legacy” and centered around Smith’s advice to students, cultivated from years of personal experience.
During the hour-long Town Hall, Smith was asked a series of questions by the students of Eagle Academies. He was questioned about his professional journey, in response to which Smith recapped his life in Denver and the support he received from his community, as well as what he does for Vista Equity Partners, in which Smith explained his role as an asset manager.
Later, he was asked about what his usual day was like and what he does for leisure. Smith responded that he meditates and reads scripture in the morning and finds great joy in his business, listening to music and fly fishing. Students also asked Smith about the secrets to his success, and he spoke about his experience as a young intern with Bells Labs and about books that every young African American man should read. His recommended reading includes the following:
- The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
- The Pilgrimage by Paolo Coelho
- Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B Du Bois
- Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson
- Echoes of a Distant Summer by Guy Johnson
Smith was also asked two very pressing questions. First, a student asked if Smith, as a successful entrepreneur, still faces some of the same challenges that other African Americans face every day. Smith relented that he still encounters some of the same problems but also spoke about how it is each person’s responsibility to enable the African American community to succeed and hopefully overcome these issues. He also noted that he understands he has more resources than most to help the African American community. With that in mind, Smith proudly supports and financially contributes to many organizations that offer educational and career opportunities for African Americans and members of other underrepresented groups, which can uplift those communities. He is involved in InternXL, an organization which he also recommended to the students at Eagle Academies, the National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants and the United Negro College Fund.
Finally, Smith was asked about his philanthropic endeavors, especially his gift to Morehouse College, to which he donated over $34 million to cover the loan debt of the 2019 graduating class. “How can others get involved to give back to others,” a student asked. Smith encouraged the students to think about what they can deliver to the community, no matter how small. He also mentioned that the students need to understand that they live in a digital economy and must embrace it. He instructed them to follow companies that support IT infrastructure, to learn from them and make the most of their education.
Black History in Two Minutes Essay Contest
At the conclusion of the Town Hall, President and CEO David C. Banks announced an essay contest. Sponsored by Fund II Foundation, of which Smith is the founding director and President, the essay contest requires Eagle Academies’ students to watch the entirety of the Black History in Two Minutes series and write a 500-word essay about what the series means to them and how they could use what they have learned to have a good life. The deadline for the essay contest is set for March 12th. Winners will be announced on March 31st and will each receive a $1,000 Amazon gift card.
Watch the entire Town Hall with Robert F. Smith on YouTube.