By Frederick H Lowe
Black billionaire Robert F. Smith awarded the class of 2019 at Morehouse College for men a gift graduating seniors and their parents won’t ever forget.
Smith, founder, and chair of Vista Equity Partners and a philanthropist announced on Sunday that he would pay off student loan debt for all of the 400 2019 graduates, which is estimated to be $40 million.
“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” Smith told seniors during Morehouse’s 135th Commencement address. “You great Morehouse men are bound by only the limits of your conviction and your own creativity.”
After he made the announcement, students chanted “MVP.”
Morehouse College was founded in 1867 in the basement of Springfield Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia to educate black men. The school moved to Atlanta in 1885. Well-known graduates include filmmaker and actor Spike Lee, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A large number of Rhodes Scholars have graduated from Morehouse.
Forbes estimates that Vista has assets of $5 billion, making Smith the wealthiest African-American man in the U.S. Along with Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, Smith is part of a group of American billionaires committed to dispersing their wealth to improve the lives of others. Smith urged graduates to help others.
Smith’s decision to pay off the student loan debt followed his earlier announcement that he would donate $1.5 million to Morehouse.