The 2019 Morehouse graduates got a graduation gift that would revel most when Robert F. Smith announced that he would pay off the student loan debt of more than 300 students! Smith is not only a billionaire and the founder of the investment firm Vista Equity, but he comes from humble beginnings like many of us. Smith’s parents were educators and he started his career as a chemical engineer working for companies like Goodyear and Kraft.
During Smith’s commencement speech he told the graduates that he was going to “put a little fuel in your bus” and further explained that his family was making a grant to eliminate their student loans. What a beautiful surprise for Morehouse where tuition is approximately 27K a year. When you add room and board, books, food, and supplies, most graduates can easily rack up close to 100k in student debt upon graduation. Smith’s gift is estimated at $40 million.
This monumental gift is not a one-time occurrence for Smith. Before the commencement announcement, Smith donated $1.5 million to Morehouse for scholarships and the development of a new park. And in 2016 he pledged $50 million to Cornell University, to support black and female engineering students.
We are literally witnessing African American legacy building from Smith and others in real time. Smith’s legacy is further established by his commitment to the Giving Pledge. In 2017, Smith signed the Giving Pledge initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates to enlist wealthy American to give away half of their fortunes. Smith has committed to invest half of his net worth during his lifetime to causes that support equality for African Americans and the environment.
Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your philanthropy.