Morehouse College’s Class of 2019 got more than their degrees on Saturday. The graduating class of nearly 400 will also leave the top HBCU for men without an ounce of debt thanks to their billionaire commencement speaker, Robert F. Smith.
During his address, the philanthropist and tech investor surprised everyone by announcing he and his family would pay off the entire class’ student loan debt, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC).
The combined debt of the graduates is valued at an estimated $40 million. Smith – who received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse Saturday – had already given a generous $1.5 million gift to the college. As founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity partners, Smith is one of 13 Black billionaires in the world.
“Men of Morehouse, you are surrounded by a community of people who have helped you arrive at this sacred place on this sacred day. On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus. … This is my class – 2019 … and my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans … I know my class will pay this forward,” Smith told the crowd.
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The graduates and their families erupted into thunderous cheering and applause. Elijah Dormeus was besides himself with joy in an interview with WSB-TV. He is about $90,000 in debt.
“If I could do a backflip … I was definitely praising God and just started shedding tears and started dancing,” Dormeus said. “I was really, really, really, really excited to walk off this campus, because that’s one of the things I was praying for, to be debt-free.”
Keeping with the theme of his analogy, Smith encouraged the graduates to follow his example by putting ‘fuel’ into others’ ‘buses of success.”
“You want to own it, you want to drive it, and you want to pick up as many people as you can along the way.”
Smith’s insanely generous gift has people from all walks of life applauding how he paid it forward.