Morehouse Commencement Speaker Announces Grant to Pay Off Student Loans for Entire Class of 2019


May 19, 2019

Billionaire Robert F. Smith just paid it forward for nearly 400 graduating seniors at Morehouse College. 

The AJC reports that during his remarks at Morehouse’s Sunday morning commencement exercises, Smith surprised everyone in attendance by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019.

The gift is estimated to be worth $40 million.


Smith received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse today and was the class’ commencement speaker.

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

The outlet spoke with one mother, Tonga Releford, whose son is a member of the graduating class.


“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she said.

Her son’s student loans are approximately $70,000, something her family no longer has to worry about thanks to Mr. Smith.

This isn’t Smith’s first gift to the prestigious college. Earlier this year Smith announced a $1.5 million gift. It officially established the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program at Morehouse College and was said to be for scholarships and an outdoor park for studying.


Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners and is considered one of the wealthiest Black entrepreneurs today. His company, which has an estimated $14 billion in capital, was listed as No. 1 on Black Enterprise’s annual list of the most successful black-owned companies. He’s also made Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans, and in 2017 was named by Forbes as one of the 100 greatest living business minds.

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