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Cornell Universe

Cornell Universe

Robert F. Smith '85 gives $50m to Engineering, Cornell Tech

Robert F. Smith '85

Robert F. Smith '85. See larger image

A combined $50 million commitment from Robert F. Smith '85, founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, and the foundation of which he is a founding director will support chemical and biomolecular engineering and African-American and female students in the College of Engineering.

In recognition of Smith's support, the university has named the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell.

The school will receive an endowment from Smith's commitment, a significant portion of which will be dedicated to scholarship and fellowship support for populations traditionally underrepresented in engineering and technology, particularly African-American and female students.

The gift also will create a program fund for diversity initiatives in engineering and provide the resources to create the Robert Frederick Smith Tech Scholars Program. Through the latter, select high school seniors with financial need – again focusing on African-American and female students – will be invited to earn an undergraduate degree at Cornell Engineering, followed by a one-year technical master's degree at Cornell Tech.

Smith's gift, including the contribution from the foundation, is one of the largest ever from an African-American philanthropist to a higher education institution.

"I credit much of my career success to being an engineer by training," Smith said. "Engineers solve problems and fix things. Along my career I have become increasingly concerned by the lack of diversity across the engineering and tech disciplines. My direct intention here is to work directly with Cornell Tech and Cornell Engineering to create direct on-ramps for African-Americans and young women to enter tech so that they can help lead us into the fourth industrial revolution."

Under Smith's leadership, Vista Equity Partners has become one of the most successful investment firms in the world. Smith's accomplishments have landed him at No. 268 on the most recent Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. He is the only African-American male on that list.

Cornell Tech showcases projects

Cornell Tech students, postdocs and staff are constantly building and innovating, whether it's in the classroom, at work or during summer break.

RoboTC chip from Cornell Tech showcase

RoboTC chip from Cornell Tech showcase. See larger image

Take RoboTC, for example – it's a chip that can be attached to any robot and allows makers to download functionalities from an "algorithm store" instead of coding them from scratch. Developed by Wilson Pulling, M.Eng. '16, RoboTC makes it easier for makers to build robots. Pulling likens the difficulty of building robots today to developing software years ago and wants to make building a robot as easy as building an app.

RoboTC enables easy implementation of otherwise difficult tasks such as path planning and object recognition, which Pulling hopes will significantly expand the scope of maker projects and help them to make the leap from robotics tinkerers to robotics entrepreneurs.

For a look at several other products built recently at Cornell Tech and demonstrated during Open Studio, the end-of-semester celebration of student, faculty and staff projects, visit

Beaming with pride

Ryan Lombardi

Ryan Lombardi. See larger image

In December Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi signed a beam in the new addition to the University Health Services facility. The first phase of construction of the expansion has remained on schedule, thanks in part to good weather, but also due to the coordinating efforts of Infrastructure, Properties and Planning with project partners at Chiang O'Brien Architects, The Pike Co. and subcontractors. Over the winter the exterior shell of the new addition was enclosed, allowing the interior to be framed, walled and tied into utilities.

Planning for the renovation of the current Gannett building has already started, and construction is set to begin this summer, once staff and operations are moved into the addition.

Did someone order a Manhattan on the rocks?

Ice resurfacer at Lynah Rink

Ice resurfacer at Lynah Rink. See larger image

One of the iconic sights at hockey games at Lynah Rink is Dave Nulle driving the ice resurfacer (note: Cornell's is not a brand name Zamboni), decked out in a different costume at each game. But this past season, the machine itself got a new look. The university crest and familiar carnelian red cover the top and front of the machine, while the sides resemble the Ithaca-to-New-York-City Campus-to-Campus bus.

Recommended read: Cornell Alumni Magazine

A Top Chef Master, a brand ambassador for premium Champagnes and an investor in restaurant startups are just three of the culinary alums featured in Cornell Alumni Magazine's Food and Drink Special. The May/June issue also explores the science of wine, chronicles competitive student food scientists and offers new takes on the Big Red Cocktail.

Cornell Alumni Magazine cover

CAM cover. See larger image

CAM has been an independent source of university news and views since it was founded by alumni in 1899. Each issue celebrates the achievements of Cornellians near and far, keeps readers up to date with student life and changes on campus (as well as reminding them of their own Cornell days), and provides an opportunity for classmates to share updates in Class Notes.

The magazine is published bimonthly and supported by paid subscriptions. If you'd like to hold Cornell in your hands six times a year, consider subscribing by paying your class dues at:

Learn all about wine from Cornell experts

Cornell, home to one of the top viticulture and enology programs in the world, will offer several wine programs to the public this summer.

Wine bottle display at viticulture and enology department

Wine bottle display at viticulture and enology department. See larger image

Led by wine microbiologist Kathleen Arnink and fruit crop physiologist Alan Lakso, the Cornell University Viticulture and Enology Experience, July 31 – Aug. 5 (registration deadline: July 15), will provide opportunities for hands-on experience working vines and making wines at local vineyards. In the classroom, in addition to tastings, participants will learn about key agricultural practices and scientific principles, the importance of microbiology in wine making, and the business aspects of owning a winery.

In "The Cornell Epicure: An Exploration of Fine Wine and Gourmet Food" daylong program June 9 (registration deadline: May 26), participants will increase their appreciation – and indulge their passion – for Finger Lakes wines and the foods that pair well with them. Led by Arnink and certified wine judge Annemarie Morse, participants will refine their skills in evaluating wines and learn about the science behind the experience.

Learn more at and

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