Robert F. Smith – Menuhin Competition
Supporter of the Menuhin Competition
Robert F. Smith is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an Austin, Texas-based investment firm. From an early age Smith was inspired by music. He learned to play the piano from both his grandmother and father, quickly becoming a fan of classical pianist André Watts. His passion for music and the arts has grown throughout his professional career and has influenced his philanthropic initiatives, including his support for the Menuhin Competition.
In 2014, Smith and Vista sponsored the Menuhin Competition in Austin, Texas, which was the Competition’s first visit to the United States. With Smith’s support, the Cleveland Orchestra, one of the “Big Five” orchestras of the United States, was brought in to perform at the conclusion of the event. The following year, Smith personally arranged a unique opportunity to feature the two Junior Prize winners in performances at an event in Berlin, Germany, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Smith shared: “Vista Equity Partners is thrilled to bring the talent of young Menuhin violinists to the World Economic Forum in Davos, and there is no better place than the World Food Programme dinner to showcase the bright stars of the future.”
Smith has attended several fundraising events that have supported the Menuhin Competition, including the #HealthyNotHungry Dinner, which featured a performance by SongHa Choi, who won Senior 2nd Prize at the Menuhin Competition London 2016. This particular event was held in Davos, Switzerland, as part of the 2017 World Economic Forum, and continued Smith’s practice of helping former Menuhin Competition alumni to perform on an international stage.
Smith supports many organizations and programs that promote the accessibility of music and arts education for all underserved communities, including the Sphinx Organization, Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, which keeps the famous jazz musician’s legacy alive while hosting one of the world’s largest jazz archives.
About Robert F. Smith
Smith attended Cornell, earning a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and later earned his MBA from Columbia Business School. Grateful for his own educational opportunities and success, Smith uses his platform to pay those opportunities forward. In 2016, he donated $20 million to Cornell Engineering’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and an additional $10 million to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program, which aims to support scholarship opportunities for African Americans and women. Continuing his campaign to bring diversity into STEAM programs Smith made donations to his alma maters in 2022. Smith’s elimination of the student loan debt of the Morehouse College graduating class of 2019 was part of his larger mission of equity in education.
As a means to provide sustainable resources to STEAM and music education nonprofits that bring opportunity to underserved communities, Smith founded Fund II Foundation, a 501c3 organization in 2014. He also serves as President of Fund II Foundation, which helped launch Student Freedom Initiative and internXL, programs which are designed to create equity and uplift underserved students.
For his inspirational philanthropy, Smith has been a recipient of many honors. Smith was awarded the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2019 and was named among TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2020. Other honors include the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Award, the UNCF President’s Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Justice Prize, and the Ron Brown Scholar Program American Journey Award