Robert F. Smith ’94
Distinguished Leadership in Business Award
Founder, Chairman, and CEO
Vista Equity Partners
Robert F. Smith is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. Vista currently manages equity capital commitments of over $28 billion and oversees a portfolio of over 35 software companies that employ over 42,000 people worldwide. Under Mr. Smith’s leadership, Vista has exclusively focused on the enterprise software, data, and technology-enabled solutions sectors. Previously, he worked for Goldman, Sachs & Co. in technology mergers and acquisitions and Kraft General Foods, where he earned four patents.
Mr. Smith has been recognized with numerous accolades, including the Reginald F. Lewis Achievement Award; the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Robert Toigo Foundation; the Ripple of Hope Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights; the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Investment Companies; and the Columbia Business School Black Business Students Association Distinguished Alumni Award.
Mr. Smith is a member of Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers. He is the chairman of the board of trustees of both Carnegie Hall and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, as well as a member of the Cornell Engineering College Council and a trustee of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco.
He holds a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Columbia Business School.
Robert K. Steel
Distinguished Leadership in Government Award
Partner and CEO, Perella Weinberg Partners
Former Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, New York City
Former Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, United States Department of the Treasury
Mr. Steel is a Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Perella Weinberg Partners. Prior to joining the Firm, he was New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development where he was responsible for the Bloomberg Administration’s five-borough economic development strategy and job-creation efforts, and oversaw such agencies as the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Department of City Planning, Department of Small Business Services, NYC Economic Development Corporation and NYC & Company, and chaired the Brooklyn Bridge Park board. A key initiative of Mayor Bloomberg’s Administration was to encourage and grow the technology sector of New York City’s economy and Mr. Steel led the applied sciences initiative, which established the Cornell-Technion campus on Roosevelt Island and New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress initiative in Brooklyn, New York.
As CEO of Wachovia Corporation in 2008, Mr. Steel oversaw the sale of the bank to Wells Fargo & Co. and served on the Wells Fargo board of directors until 2010. During his tenure at the U.S. Treasury, he revived the President’s Working Group, the core group to respond to the global economic crisis of 2008. He managed the Department’s Blueprint for Modernized Regulatory Structure, which recommended several of the reforms since pursued by the Obama administration.
Mr. Steel also spent nearly 30 years at Goldman Sachs, rising to Head of the Global Equities Division, Vice Chairman of the firm and a member of its Management Committee. He began his Goldman Sachs career in Chicago, and then spent more than seven years in London before returning to the United States to work in the New York headquarters. Mr. Steel also was a member of the board of directors of Barclays from 2005 to 2006.
He is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Mr. Steel is Chairman of the Aspen Institute’s Board of Trustees and has served as Chairman of Duke’s Board of Trustees, Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a member of the FDIC Advisory Committee on Economic Inclusion, Chairman of The After-School Corporation, and Co-Founder of SeaChange Capital Partners, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits grow.
Robert Reffkin ’03
Distinguished Early Achievement Award
Founder and CEO
Robert Reffkin ’03 is the founder and CEO of Compass, a technology-driven residential brokerage in New York City. It launched in 2013 as Urban Compass before changing its name to Compass at the beginning of 2015.
Prior to founding Compass, Mr. Reffkin was chief of staff to the president and COO of Goldman Sachs, following five years of service in the company’s private equity arm. These roles enabled him to expand upon experience he gained in public service as a White House Fellow—a 2005 appointment as special assistant to the United States Secretary of the Treasury—and previously at Lazard Frères and McKinsey & Company.
He has served on the boards of the Citizens Committee for New York City and the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and was the founding chair of the Success Academy Bronx 1 Charter School. Additionally, he has completed 50 marathons—one in each state—to raise $1 million for nonprofit organizations.
Mr. Reffkin earned a bachelor of arts degree in economics and philosophy from Columbia College and an MBA from Columbia Business School.