On May 1, amid a dazzling backdrop of deep-sea creatures in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History — an exciting new venue to celebrate Columbia Business School’s next century at the very center of business — the 41st Annual Dinner raised a total of nearly $2.6 million from over 200 gifts from across the School community. The dinner also provided the perfect setting to announce a generous gift from Robert F. Smith ’94, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners and one of the night’s three honorees, toward the School’s new buildings on the Manhattanville Campus.
“I am pleased to announce that Robert has pledged to donate $15 million to help build the School’s new buildings on the Manhattanville Campus,” Dean Glenn Hubbard told the evening’s attendees. “Robert’s incredible gift has put the School over its $500 million fundraising goal, sealing our down payment on our future home. Thank you, Robert!”
Located between West 125th and West 133rd Streets, the Manhattanville Campus will be the new location of Columbia Business School, which will occupy two buildings: The Henry R. Kravis Building and the Ronald O. Perelman Center for Business Innovation. The high-tech facilities will boast 492,000 square feet of space, more than doubling the School’s current size, and, thanks to their location beside world-class centers for neuroscience and the arts, will encourage collaboration and interdisciplinary interaction.
“Thanks to donors like Henry, Ronald, and Robert, the dream of Manhattanville will become a reality,” the dean said, noting that “opportunities to contribute to the new campus still exist. This exciting venture will need continued support to ensure the School remains at the very center of business for the next 100 years.”
At the dinner, Smith was honored with the Distinguished Leadership in Business Award. “Robert ... has truly shown distinguished leadership in business,” the dean said. “He founded and leads a firm that invests in dozens of tech companies and supports thousands of jobs. Doing this superbly — as he does — would be enough to warrant recognition, but he has also remained committed to community and country in important and generous ways. At the Business School, we are fortunate to rely on his leadership as a member of the Board of Overseers.”
The event also recognized Robert K. Steel, partner and CEO of Perella Weinberg Partners, former deputy mayor for economic development of New York City, and former under secretary for domestic finance at the United States Department of the Treasury, with the Distinguished Leadership in Government Award. As deputy mayor in the Bloomberg administration, Steel was responsible for economic development strategy and job-creation efforts, with a special focus on encouraging and growing the city’s technology sector. During his tenure at the US Treasury, Steel revived the President’s Working Group, which responded to the 2008 economic crisis, and managed the Treasury’s Blueprint for Modernized Regulatory Structure.
Further, Robert Reffkin ’03, founder and CEO of Compass, was recognized with the Distinguished Early Achievement Award for his pioneering efforts in applying data and technology to the field of real estate. In 2014, Reffkin was named to Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” list, and he is also the founder of America Needs You, a nonprofit that provides mentorship and career development to first-generation college students.
Co-chaired by David E. Simon ’85, chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group, and Frank K. Tang ’94, managing partner and CEO of FountainVest Partners (Asia) Ltd., the 41st Annual Dinner welcomed more than 800 attendees, including members of the Board of Overseers, alumni, corporate sponsors, faculty members, students, and friends. Also in attendance were 45 alumni club leaders, who flew in from all over the world.