Almost 400 college seniors were given the surprise of a lifetime during their commencement ceremony earlier this week thanks to a massive donation from their keynote speaker.
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith was just wrapping up his commencement speech to the graduating class of Morehouse College when he announced that he would be paying off the student debt of all 396 college seniors.
Morehouse is an all-men’s, historically black private college in Atlanta, Georgia with the average student debt ranging in the multi-thousand dollar range. A spokesperson for the school told 11Alive News that Smith’s donation would likely pay off about $40 million worth of debt between the graduating students.
While the students and audience members cheered over Smith’s announcement, he expressed his hope that the graduates would find their own way to pay it forward in the future.
“Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” said Smith. “I want my class to look at these [alumni] – these beautiful Morehouse brothers – and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community. We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American dream.”
Smith is the founder of Vista Equity Partners, an international investment firm with over $46 billion in software management. He is also the first and only African-American business leader to sign “The Giving Pledge”, a campaign to recruit the world’s billionaires into giving away half of their fortune to charity.
(WATCH the awe-inspiring announcement below) – Photo by Morehouse College