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Robert F. Smith

Maker interview details

Profile image of Robert F. Smith
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  • August 10, 2015


  • Category: BusinessMakers
  • Occupation(s): Private Equity Chief Executive


  • Born: December 1, 1962
  • Birth Location: Denver, Colorado


  • Favorite Color: Purple
  • Favorite Food: Gumbo, Peach Cobbler, Mexican Food
  • Favorite Time of Year: Fall
  • Favorite Vacation Spot: Home in Colorado

Favorite Quote

"You Are Enough As You Are, Discover The Joys Of Figuring Things Out, Love Is What Matters"
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Investment chief executive Robert Frederick Smith was born on December 1, 1962 in Denver, Colorado to educators Dr. William Robert Smith and Dr. Sylvia Myrna Smith. Smith attended Carson Elementary School and Gove Jr. High School in Denver. He then graduated from Denver East High School in 1981 and Cornell University with his B.S. degree in chemical engineering in 1986. He worked as an engineer for Air Products and Chemicals, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and Kraft General Foods. Smith was the principal inventor on two United States and two European patents. Smith received his M.B.A. degree with a concentration in finance and marketing from Columbia Business School in 1994.

After business school, Smith joined Goldman Sachs in mergers and acquisitions department in New York and then moved to San Francisco in 1997 to initiate Goldman Sachs’ merger and acquisition efforts there. As co-head of Enterprise Systems and Storage, he oversaw $50 billion in merger and acquisition activity with the following companies: Apple, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, eBay and Yahoo. Smith left Goldman Sachs in 2000 to found his own company, Vista Equity Partners LLC. In 2015, the HEC-Dow Jones Private Equity Performance Ranking named Vista Equity Partners LLC as one of the industry’s top performers.

Smith was a member of the Leadership Circle for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and an active supporter of the organization Children’s Opportunities for Music Participation. He was also Chairman of the Board of the Robert F. Kennedy Center, a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council, a trustee at Columbia Business School, trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs in San Francisco, and a board member of Carnegie Hall. Smith also received honorary doctorates from American University and Huston-Tillotson University.

Smith received the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award, the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation, the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies, and the Columbia University BBSA Distinguished Alumni Award. Smith, a well known philanthropist, donated $30 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and $50 million to Cornell University.

Smith and his wife, Hope Dworaczyk, have one son, Hendrix Robert Smith, and he has three children, Zoe Suzanne Smith, Eliana Frederick Smith and Maximos Robert Smith, from a prior marriage.

Robert F. Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 10, 2015.

Previews from the Digital Archive


Watch the full interview in the Digital Archive