Robert F. Smith announced that his family was creating a grant to pay the class of 2019's student debt.

By Helen Murphy
Nirat.pix/Shutterstock

May 20, 2019

Best graduation present ever?

Morehouse College’s class of 2019 got a welcome surprise on Sunday when their commencement speaker, billionaire Robert F. Smith, said he would pay off their student debt.

Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners. Earlier this year, he was ranked by Forbes as the 355th richest person in the world.

According to the Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionSmith said that his family was creating a grant to pay off the student debt of the entire graduating class. The billionaire announced the move during his commencement speech in front of nearly 400 seniors graduating from the all-male, historically black college in Atlanta, Georgia.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” he said, before revealing the grant to cheers and a standing ovation from students and faculty alike.

“This is my class,” Smith said, “and I know my class will pay this forward.”

The gift has been estimated at $40 million, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Jamie Foxx and Charlamagne Tha God both posted on social media on Sunday to commend Smith.

“To know this man is to love him,” Foxx said on Instagram. “The love for people is immeasurable!!! He is lifting us up every day!!! God bless you Robert Smith,” Foxx also added the hashtags #blackexcellence, #billionaire and #heartofgold.

Meanwhile, Charlamagne wrote: “This is what a BLESSING looks like. Just a light estimated 40 million dollars in student loan debt paid off. The good brother @robertfredericksmith is worth 4.4 billion and don’t rap, act, or have a jump shot but I’m not Wikipedia go do your own Googles.”

“Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you get educated,” Smith, who received an honorary Morehouse College doctorate on Sunday, wrote on Instagram.

“Where you go to school shouldn’t determine whether you get textbooks. The opportunity you access should be determined by the fierceness of your intellect, the courage in your creativity and the grit that allows you to overcome expectations that weren’t set high enough,” he said.

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