Back in May, the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College received the gift and the shock of a lifetime. Philanthropist and billionaire Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt for all of the graduates. Now that gift has extended to their parents.
Bloomberg.com reports, Smith, the founder of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, will now pay off “federal educational debt amassed by parents.” The details were reportedly sent on an email on Friday (Sept. 20).
David A. Thomas, President of Morehouse College, said in a statement, “This liberation gift from Robert Smith—the first of its kind to be announced at a graduation in higher education—will be life-changing for our new Morehouse Men and their families. It is our hope that our graduates will use their newfound financial freedom to pursue their career goals, to lead and serve the community, and to remember the spirit of the gift given to them by paying it forward to support the education of future classes of Morehouse Men.”
at their commencement ceremony on Sunday morning. According to CNN,
In case you missed it, in May, the historically Black college awarded Smith with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for being a trailblazer in the realm of business.
Unbeknownst to students and faculty, Smith planned on topping that generous donation by giving graduates the gift of being student loan debt free through the establishment of a new a grant. “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. Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” he said during his speech. “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.”
There were 400 seniors that were a part of the graduating class and Smith’s gift is estimated to be $34 million. The graduates were overjoyed and many of them were in disbelief. See the full speech below:
Paying it forward is nothing new to Smith. He was the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s largest private donor and has been an advocate for education and combating global poverty.