Morehouse Plans To Use $1.5M Gift For student Scholarships And A New Park

Written by Ann Brown

Jan. 17 was a good day for Atlanta-based HBCU Morehouse College. The 152-year-old historically Black college received a $1.5 million gift from investor, entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert F. Smith.

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Smith’s gift will fund scholarships, a new park, and an outdoor study area. The gift to the all-male Morehouse College will become a program with Smith’s name on it. The Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program will be supported by $1 million of the donation, the Morehouse News Center reported.

“Robert F. Smith’s donation of $1 million for student scholarships will have a profound impact on the lives of deserving young men who have the desire to attend Morehouse College, but lack the resources,” Morehouse President David A. Thomas said in a statement. “We appreciate his generosity and his investment in a generation of students who will follow in his footsteps as global leaders and entrepreneurs.”

Robert Smith, Vista Equity Partners. Photo:

Smith is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a software and technology investment firm founded in 2000. Vista Equity Partners manages equity capital commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies, employing 60,000 people worldwide, according to the company website.

Smith was named one of the 100 greatest living business minds
by Forbes for his visionary leadership in 2017. He has become known for his philanthropic work. He was the first African-American business leader to sign “The Giving Pledge,” an initiative created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett that encourages wealthy individuals and families to give more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported.

Smith, the chairman of the board of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, also founded the Fund II Foundation, which focuses on safeguarding human rights, the environment, and sustaining critical American values.

Smith is also the largest private donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“This museum says that we African Americans are at the center of it all. And now there is a creative and elegant building that is not just a temple, but is alive,” he said in an interview with the Washington Post about his donation, News One reported. “This is a way of preserving our history for generations and ensuring that the stories of our families continue to be told, generation after generation.”

After going through some financial turmoil in 2012, Morehouse is relatively stable, unlike many other HBCUs, AJC reported. “(Morehouse) is one of the richest and most highly regarded of the 101 accredited HBCUs.”

New Morehouse president Thomas has vowed to increase the institution’s endowment from approximately $140 million to between $300-to-$400 million.

The largest gift to the college to date was made by media mogul and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, who gave Morehouse $5 million.