Robert F. Smith | Together We Rise

Robert F. Smith and wife Hope support the Family Fellowship Program and Together We Rise.

Learn more about Smith and his involvement

Entrepreneur, engineer and American Investor

Robert F. Smith is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm headquartered in Austin, Texas that specializes in enterprise software, data and technology-enabled organizations.


A prolific philanthropist, Smith is the Founding Director and President of the Fund II Foundation, which provides grants to charities. During his commencement address at Morehouse College in 2019, he pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the graduating class, a gift that totaled over $34 million.

Coin in Hand

Following his commencement speech, Student Freedom Initiative was created to further address student loan debt by supporting students attending Minority Serving Institutions at participating HBCUs. Smith personally contributed $50 million, matching the $50 million grant from the Fund II Foundation, to benefit future generations of students.


Through a partnership between the Fund II Foundation and Together We Rise, the Family Fellowship Program was created to provide support to former foster youth looking to attend a university, community college or trade school education.

In the fall of 2015, Robert F. Smith, along with his wife Hope Smith, met with the first Fellows accepted by the Family Fellowship Program.

The couple welcomed the 10 students to lunch, during which they shared stories of their life.

Each student was awarded a new MacBook and the promise of financial and emotional support throughout the next 5 years.

Robert F. Smith and Hope Smith continue to be involved with the Fellows, including inviting the group out to Colorado during the winter holidays.

While visiting, the Fellows enjoyed a long weekend playing board games in a cabin, visiting escape rooms, hiking and tubing outdoors and opening gifts.


Applicants accepted to the program receive financial assistance in the form of scholarships. Additional resources and a family environment aim to help program participants thrive in their post-secondary education.

More About Robert F. Smith

Boy with Backpack

Robert F. Smith was born in Denver, Colorado to two educators who instilled in him a respect for the value and power of a good education.

Fancy Suit

To further his educational ambitions, Smith applied for and earned a coveted internship at Bell Labs while still a high school student, which was usually reserved for college students.


After high school, Smith went on to graduate with a chemical engineering degree from Cornell University and later joined several top companies, including Kraft General Foods, where he worked as an engineer.

Office Building

Harboring a passion for not only science but also investment banking, Smith pursued an MBA from Columbia University. He then worked for Goldman Sachs before founding Vista Equity Partners in 2000.

Over the years, Smith has made it a priority to give back to numerous charitable organizations and nonprofits, especially those that provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged or underrepresented groups.

In 2017, he was the first African American to sign the Giving Pledge, committing to donate a majority of his net worth over his lifetime. He has also provided funding to his alma maters, including a $15 million gift to Columbia University, a $20 million gift to Cornell University’s College of Engineering and another $10 million in tech scholarships for African Americans and women. In 2016, he donated $20 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Smith’s philanthropic efforts and business endeavors have earned him many honors, including:

    - The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

    - The Ripple of Hope Award from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

    - UNCF’s President’s Award

    - The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award

    - The Jackie Robinson Foundation ROBIE Achievement in Industry Award

Photo of Robert F. Smith, well-known philanthropist and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners

He was also listed among Forbes’ 100 Greatest Living Business Minds, as well as TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, and was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame in 2019. He currently serves on the Board of Overseers at Columbia Business School and is a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council and the Executive Committee of the Business Roundtable.

Learn more about Together We Rise supporter Robert F. Smith.

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