The 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College will forever be grateful to billionaire Robert F. Smith after he announced he is going to pay off their student loans estimated at $40 million at the graduation ceremony.
Smith, who received an honorary doctorate from the college and was the commencement speaker at the ceremony, which also saw actress Angela Basset receive an honorary degree had already pledged to donate $1.5 million to the college, Time reports.
The announcement, which came as surprise to both the college administration and the nearly 400 graduating students was met with loud cheers and applause.
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“Men of Morehouse, you are surrounded by a community of people who have helped you arrive at this sacred place on this sacred day. On behalf of the 8 generations of my family who have been in this country, we are going to put a little fuel in your bus,” he started.
“Now I’ve got the alumni over there and this is a challenge to you, alumni. This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” he added.
The out of the blue announcement was met with a rousing applause and MVP chants by the overly excited graduating class.
“Now I know my class will make sure they pay this forward, and I want my class to look at these alumnus, these beautiful Morehouse brothers and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward,” he said.
“We are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream. And we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.
“So the class of 2019, may the sun always shine upon you. May the wind always be at your back. And may God always hold you in the cradle of her hands,” he concluded.
A mother of one of the graduating students, who told AJC her son was leaving the institution with an estimated $70 000 debt breathed a sigh of relief.
“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she said.
56-year-old Smith is the Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity company he founded in 2000. The company has carved a niche for itself fixing up enterprise software outfits and today has a value of about $46 billion in assets. Forbes puts Smith’s net worth at an estimated $5 billion and he is currently ranked number 355 on its 2019 billionaires list.
Smith is a very well-known philanthropist with a bias for educational and entrepreneurship development.
Watch his full speech below: