The graduating class of 2019 from Morehouse College was amazed to hear that billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert J. Smith would be paying off their student debt.
Smith received an honorary doctorate from the all-male African American college, and pledged to pay off the student debt of all 396 college seniors.
Prior to earning his billions, Smith went to Cornell for his BS in chemical engineering, before earning his MBA from Columbia Business School. He later went on to work at Kraft General Foods and Goldman Sachs before starting his own investment firm.
This isn’t Smith’s first philanthropic gesture. In 2017 he signed on to the Giving Pledge, which is a group of ultra rich individuals including Bill Gates and Warren Buffet committed to donating a majority of their wealth.
Smith donated roughly $40 million dollars to Morehouse college grads, and had previously donated a $1.5 million gift to the college. In 2016, Smith made a $20 million dollar donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. In that same year he also made a $50 million donation to Cornell, who renamed their Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering school after him.
Smith founded Vista Equity Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm with over $43 billion in capital investments and 65,000 employees worldwide.
In his commencement ceremony speech, he stated that he hopes these students will find the kindness within them to pay it forward.