Robert F. Smith remains committed to students pursuing careers in the worlds of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). And this time, he is returning to where it all started, blessing the Cornell University College of Engineering with a generous gift.

“I’m investing $15 million in the students of the College of Engineering to establish three funds here at Cornell that will help ensure diverse and historically underrepresented students get the chance to build their skills and thrive,” said Smith during an award ceremony held at his alma mater. “Thirteen million will help undergraduate and graduate students attend our university. The balance will help all of you succeed, allowing you to go to that national conference or earn that certificate. I am proud to do my part, but it is up to you to turn this funding into real value. That is what matters.” 

The Funds

Three funds will be named in Smith’s honor at the institution. The first is, the Robert F. Smith Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, another is the Robert F. Smith Graduate Fellowship Fund, and lastly, the Robert F. Smith Student Success Fund.

Around seven undergraduate students per year will receive $45,000 in grants through the new scholarship fund. A total of 12 master’s students and five doctoral students will be supported through the graduate fellowship fund. The Student Success Fund will be geared toward helping students attend and participate in national conferences and professional development training. Furthermore, the fund will also connect students with employers, mentors, and various learning opportunities to encourage the “holistic development of students” during their time in college.

Well-Deserved Flowers

In addition to the announcement of the funds, Smith will also receive Cornell’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The achievement celebrates and recognizes engineering alumni who use their professional accomplishments to give back.

“In all seriousness, I am thrilled to accept this award,” Smith said. “In many ways, this school made me who I am today. It taught me lessons that guide me still. So it means a lot to be invited back and honored like this.”

He continued: “I chose to study at Cornell many years ago because I did my research. I learned about Ezra Cornell, Andrew Dickson White, and the tradition of Alpha Phi Alpha, my fraternity. Their example — their courage — drew me here. That and the weather.”

The new funds will begin to be distributed during the Fall 2022 semester with a strong preference geared toward HBCU graduates as well as students who have graduated from “urban core high schools in major cities,” according to information shared with AfroTech. Those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds and/ or those who have had to overcome trials and tribulations in pursuit of their educational goals will also have the top priority when it comes to the selection of recipients for the funds.