The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell is dedicated to supporting and strengthening the network of owners, leaders, and alumni that work in, with or for a family business.

Founded in 2014 from a generous gift from John and Dyan Smith, the Smith Family Business Initiative provides education, networking and new knowledge for family business owners, successors, and students from across the globe.

2019 Sam Seltzer '48 Mentors Forum

The Sam Seltzer ’48 Mentors Forum provides current Cornell students with the opportunity to engage, one on one, with alumni, Family Business Scholars, advisors and family business leaders. Students are able to select their own agendas and interest areas for exploration during the time they spend with our mentors.

For Students
If you are interested in participating in the Mentors Forum please complete the campus groups registration form and share the event with your colleagues. Registration is open to current students and young alumni that have graduated within the last 5 years.

For Mentors
We welcome your participation and invite you to have an impact in the lives of our students and the next generation of family business leaders. We seek a diverse group of mentors with a wide range of expertise and backgrounds. If you are interested in serving as a mentor and coach, please send a note to to indicate you would be willing to attend and serve.

The Smith Family Business Initiative at Cornell BusinessFeed

March 22, 2019

Helping family businesses thrive: SFBI turns five years old

A Cornell-wide program, the Smith Family Business Initiative was founded in 2014 with a $10 million donation from John Smith, MBA ’74, and his wife, Dyan.

January 10, 2019

So you want to be an entrepreneur? Part 2: Spaces and initiatives

In Part 2 of this series, Donnie and Earl offer a list of co-working spaces, initiatives, events, and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs at Cornell.

October 24, 2018

Breaking gender barriers across generations

At the Cornell Family Business Roundtable, women from within the Johnson community and beyond gathered to discuss leadership and their family’s businesses.


Family Business Blog

November 5, 2019

Cornell student profile: Lana Farrell MBA ’20

Name: Lana Farrell Program: Johnson Graduate School of Business Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida Family Business: Maritime Emergency Response and Wreck Removal Post-Cornell employer: TBD Favorite Hobbies: Reading, traveling, cooking, yoga   What makes family business unique?  Family businesses often to maintain more of an entrepreneurial spirit as they grow, versus many other organizations that create […]

November 5, 2019

Paddy Walker MBA ’90 shares his family office experience.

The Cornell Family Business Club hosted Paddy Walker, MBA ’90, for a fireside chat on October 21, 2019. Paddy is a fourth-generation family business executive and is currently working as MD of J. Leon Group. The following reflection was shared by Prasad Batchu, MBA ’20.  It was a great learning experience for students to hear […]

November 5, 2019

Peer networking of increasing importance for family firms

Many professionals have the experience of moving up the chain and finding that it gets lonelier at the top. But for family business owners, it can be even lonelier. Peer networking is a highly popular strategy for business leaders at all levels to be able to talk confidentially about the difficult decisions they face. These […]