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April 26, 2021

By Gary A. Puckrein, PhD

For Immediate Release

24 April 2021 | Washington, DC

Robert F. Smith to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award
from National Minority Quality Forum

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) announced Robert F. Smith will receive its 2021 Bernard J. Tyson Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes a healthcare or business leader who has helped to decrease health disparities and build sustainable healthy communities.  

Robert F. Smith—the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners in Austin—is being honored for his leadership and distinguished efforts in health care.

Beginning in 1985, Mr. Smith earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Cornell University and his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1994 where he served as both President of the Black Business Students’ Association and President of the Japan Business Association. From there, he joined Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking. 

In 2014, he founded the Fund II Foundation, which provides grants to fund efforts that conserve African American experiences and culture for future generations, rectify human rights abuses, promote music education for young people, protect the environment through advocacy and awareness of the benefits of the outdoors, and uphold vital American values such as empowerment, innovation, and security for all. 

Just two years later in 2016, Cornell University honored Mr. Smith’s leadership by renaming the school he graduated from to the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. In the same year, he received the Frederick D. Patterson Award, the highest recognition awarded by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). Even further in 2016, Mr. Smith announced a personal contribution of $20 million to Cornell University’s College of Engineering, plus another $10 million in scholarships for African Americans and women pursuing technology-related degrees.

In 2019, Mr. Smith received the UNCF President’s Award, and at the award ceremony, he announced a matching gift of all funds raised during the gala event. Also during that year, Mr. Smith received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College and made headlines by announcing that he would cover the student loan debt of nearly 400 students in the graduating class in a commencement speech. That May, he was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, and in December, he was included in The Bloomberg 50, a list of just 50 people across all industries around the world who defined the year.

The awards continued into 2020 where Mr. Smith received Cornell Engineering’s Distinguished Alumni Award for his philanthropic work and dedication to inclusion and diversity in the technology industry.

“There is no doubt that Mr. Smith’s philanthropic contributions have given life-changing opportunities to a generation of diverse leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” said Dr. Gary Puckrein, President and CEO of NMQF. 

“To achieve optimal healthcare for all, it is important to have minority representation in all aspects of the healthcare system,” Dr. Puckrein continued. “We need more diverse scientists and researchers; bioengineers to create medical devices and therapeutics; advancements in technology to improve precision medicine; and statisticians to help us calculate the effectiveness of certain drugs or procedures. We applaud Mr. Smith for giving opportunities for so many to continue their pursuit of skills that can improve upon or reimagine our healthcare system in the United States.”

“Bernard Tyson keenly understood that we can’t have social justice without health justice, and he dedicated his life to eradicating the disparities in health that continue to plague our country,” Mr. Smith said. “It is a special honor to accept an award that bears his name and carries the weight of his legacy. The National Minority Quality Forum works tirelessly to shine a spotlight on issues that can be too easily overlooked, and I am privileged to support these efforts.”

Robert F. Smith will be honored virtually at NMQF’s 2021 Annual Leadership Summit on Health Disparities and Health Braintrust on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 28th. After presentation of the award, Mr. Smith will join Dr. Puckrein for a fireside chat.  

Past honorees include the late Kaiser Permanente President and CEO, Bernard J. Tyson, the renowned American physician Dr. Anthony Fauci, the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and President Joe Biden. 

The 19th NMQF Annual Leadership Summit on Health Disparities and Health Braintrust will be virtual and free to attend. To register or learn more, visit:

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About the National Minority Quality Forum
The National Minority Quality Forum assists health care providers, professionals, administrators, researchers, policymakers, and community and faith-based organizations in delivering appropriate health care to minority communities. This assistance is based on providing the evidence in the form of science, research, and analysis that will lead to the effective organization and management of system resources to improve the quality and safety of health care for the entire population of the U.S., including minorities. For more information, please visit

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