Graduation ceremonies are oftentimes bittersweet moments to reflect on all of the hard work that you’ve done over the years. For 396 graduates of Morehouse college, their ceremony was a lot more sweet than bitter.
“This is my class, 2019… and my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” said Robert F. Smith, the speaker for the occasion.
The announcement was met by shock from the audience, and an eventual uproar followed by chants of “MVP!”
Morehouse College is a historically black all-male institution located in Atlanta, Georgia. Smith was receiving his honorary doctorate, and was determined to make sure that his classmates made the most of the gesture.
“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community,” Smith said. “We are enough to ensure we have all the opportunities of the American Dream, and we will show it to each other through our actions and through our words and through our deeds.”
“When Dr. King said that the ‘arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,” he wasn’t saying it bends on its own accord. It bends because we choose to put our shoulders into it together and push.” – Robert F. Smith @RFS_Vista #MorehouseGrad2019 https://t.co/u6o3H5UmxT pic.twitter.com/u2DIsqquNP
— Morehouse College (@Morehouse) May 19, 2019
While the exact number of the donation that he and his family will be contributing is unknown, school President David Thomas said that the figure is sure to be in the tens of millions.
His net worth of an estimated $5B makes him the richest African American person ever. Most of his wealth was accumulated from his Vista Equity. He founded the private equity firm alongside Brian Sheth in 2000. The company is dedicated to investing in software companies.
Smith received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, where he earned his B.S. in chemical engineering before going on to earn his MBA from Columbia University.
Smith is well-known for his philanthropic efforts. Just earlier this year he donated $1.5M dollars to the university for scholarships. In 2016, he donated $50M dollars to Cornell University, and they eventually named their School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering after him.
In 2017, he was recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as one of the top 50 financial donors in the country.