Billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert F. Smith has shocked many graduating students of famous Moorehouse College when he announced that he would paying off all their student loans!
For those who know the US system, student loans are the biggest burdens that many graduates face and battle immediately leaving school and this gesture was applauded by all present including Morehouse President David A. Thomas, who learned of the gift at the same moment as the students.
It’s hard to estimate the cost of Smith’s gift to the 2019 graduates of the all-male, historically black college, but it could be in the $10 million range, according to some estimates. There were 396 graduates in the class, and tuition, room and board, and other costs run about $48,000 per year, Thomas said.
The audience exploded in chants of “MVP!” after Smith’s announcement. Thomas said that could have either stood for Most Valuable Player, or as Thomas prefers, Most Valuable Philanthropist, according to report by Washignton Post.
Thomas said the gift will open the door for students to follow their chosen career paths without being saddled by debt.
“It will allow them to more quickly go toward what they are passionate about,” he said. “When you move toward what your passion is, you can make your greatest contribution to the world.”
Smith said he wanted students to understand that part of receiving this gift is that they will also think about taking care of the people behind them when they are able.
“Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” said Smith, who received an honorary doctoral degree Sunday. “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, founder of private equity and venture capital firm Vista Equity Partners, is worth about $5 billion, according to Forbes He was the wealthiest African American in the country in 2018.
He is the only African American to sign the Giving Pledge, the initiative created by billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet in 2010 to “help address society’s most pressing problems” by shifting “the social norms of philanthropy toward giving more, giving sooner and giving smarter.”
He pledged to give away half his net worth to causes that support equality for African Americans and protect the environment.
“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African Americans whose names I will never know,” he wrote. “Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve.”