The $4.5 million endowed gift from Warren C. “Renny” Smith Jr. T’83 includes a commitment to match up to an additional $4.5 million in future gifts to the Tuck Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital.
Tuck has received a $4.5 million endowed gift from Warren C. “Renny” Smith Jr. T’83 to support the Tuck Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital (CPEVC). The gift includes a commitment to match future endowed gifts of $100,000 or more to the Center, up to an additional $4.5 million, made before June 30, 2023.
The initial endowment will help sustain the Center’s expanding portfolio of experiential learning initiatives, including the annual Tuck PEVC Conference, celebrating its 17th year this February, and CPEVC Fellows program for second-year MBA students. Through these and other programs, the Center helps forge pathways of learning and application for a growing number of students interested in private equity and venture capital careers.
From his time as a Tuck MBA student in the early 1980s and throughout an accomplished private equity career that spans three decades, Smith has witnessed the evolution of private equity and venture capital—from a little-known and understood business topic to one of the central forces driving business today.
Renny Smith T'83, co-founder and managing partner of Staley Capital, has supported the Tuck Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital since its inception.
“Today, it’s a huge piece of the business environment we live in. Both the private equity and venture capital firms themselves, as well as the companies they are backing and taking public, are front-page news almost every day,” says Smith, co-founder and managing partner of Staley Capital. “This gift is an opportunity to ensure the Center remains a cornerstone of the Tuck experience and continues to support students as they broaden their understanding of private equity and venture capital and launch rewarding careers in the industry.”
Smith has supported the Center from its inception. He recalls receiving a phone call from Colin Blaydon, former Tuck dean and founding academic director of the Center. It was the mid-90s, during the buildup to the dot com era, and Blaydon was assembling a group of alumni to strategize how Tuck could cultivate opportunities for students to engage in this emerging business field.
“The consensus among all of us was that this was a good idea,” recalls Smith, whose private equity career began in 1990 when he joined Thomas H. Lee Partners, overseeing investments in consumer businesses that included Finlay Fine Jewelry, Rayovac, and Eye Care Centers of America. “We shared a conviction that this was a sector that would continue to grow and expand, which has certainly proved to be the case.”
The launch of the Tuck Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital, originally the Tuck Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship; the formation of the CPEVC Advisory Board; and the development of Tuck’s first full-term course on private equity and venture capital can all be traced back to that on-campus strategy session more than 25 years ago.
Every year since, Smith has joined as a visiting speaker in that initial course, Venture Capital and Private Equity, now taught by Professor Gordon Phillips. He has also continued to serve as a trusted member and current chair of the CPEVC Advisory Board.
“Renny’s dedication, ingenuity, and generosity in support of our School and this Center cannot be overstated,” says Tuck Dean Matthew J. Slaughter. “He helped launch the Center; he has partnered with its affiliated faculty and staff to enrich its learning and impact; and he has been a tireless ambassador connecting it to the world. And now, in true Tuck spirit, he has created a philanthropic opportunity that allows others to join and collaborate.”
I know there are many other alumni who are passionate about the Center and the pathways it creates for students. With additional resources, there is a rich and bottomless well of opportunities we can pursue with programming, curriculum, and career support that will deepen this impact even more.
Smith says the gift reflects his strong belief that Tuck’s MBA experience provides an ideal foundation for any aspiring private equity and venture capital leader. Specifically, he says the school’s focus on general management allows students to build a broad base of knowledge and develop an understanding of how each part of the business ecosystem works.
“This foundation is critical since PE/VC touches on operations, accounting, organizational behavior, strategy, real estate, business law, etc.,” says Smith. “If you are going to be making private equity investments, you need to be facile with all aspects of how a business operates. One blind spot could be your undoing with an investment.”
The unrivaled Tuck network is another competitive advantage for students seeking career opportunities in private equity and venture capital. Smith says PE/VC firms often don’t formally recruit on campuses, so students benefit immensely from connecting with alumni.
“If you want to work in private equity or venture capital coming out of an MBA program, it often starts with an email,” shares Smith. “And we know the hit rate if you are a Tuck student reaching out to an alum is pretty high.”
A credit to the active engagement of Smith and other dedicated alumni, curricular and co-curricular offerings for students interested in PE/VC have grown considerably during the past two decades. Through his commitment to match additional gifts of $100,000 or more to the CPEVC before the end of the next fiscal year, Smith hopes he can help ensure the transformative programming and resources of the Center are sustained for future generations.
“I know there are many other alumni who are passionate about the Center and the pathways it creates for students,” says Smith. “With additional resources, there is a rich and bottomless well of opportunities we can pursue with programming, curriculum, and career support that will deepen this impact even more.”
Alumni and friends interested in learning more about supporting the CPEVC at Tuck and the opportunity to participate in Smith’s matching challenge should contact Senior Associate Dean for Advancement, Punam Anand Keller.