When the 400 students sat down at their graduation ceremony at Morehouse College in Atlanta on Sunday to listen to the billionaire tech investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith deliver his commencement address to them, they probably expected to get some good advice about work and maybe even a little life advice thrown in. However, what none of them could have expected was the surprise Smith had in store for them.
Smith announced he was paying off all the student loans of the entire graduating class of 2019. As you can imagine, the class went wild after Smith made the announcement.
— José Mallabo (@JoseMallabo) May 19, 2019
Smith, one of America’s most prominent black philanthropists, made a majority of his fortune through investments in the technology sector. He was invited to give the commencement speech to the graduating class of 2019 at Morehouse College, an historically all-male black college, because the college was awarding him with an honorary degree. While Smith had previously made public that he was donating $1.5 million to the college to go toward scholarships and a new park, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that none of Smith’s staff nor the staff at Morehouse College knew of his surprise.
There are more than 400 graduating seniors in Morehouse College’s class of 2019, some of whom have $200,000 in student loan debt. All that debt, estimated to be worth around $40 million, is now being wiped clean. Announcing the payment of their debts, Smith told the students, “This is my class and I know my class will pay this forward.”