Billionaire Robert Smith pays student debt to promote Morehouse: NPR
Billionaire investor and philanthropist Robert Smith said on Sunday he was eliminating student debt for the entire 2019 class of Morehouse College.
Smith, entrepreneur and founder of investment firm Vista Equity Partners, made the surprise announcement in front of about 400 students while delivering the college’s keynote address. Morehouse is an all-male, historically black university located in Atlanta.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have lived in this country, let’s put some fuel on your bus. This is my class, 2019. And my family is making a grant to wipe out their student loans,” Smith says. . “I know my class will make sure they pay up front… and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity in the future, because we are sufficient to take care of our own community.”
Among the members of this year’s class was Kamal Medlock.
“When he said those words… the mouths of all my classmates opened. We were speechless,” Medlock said in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin. “We were shocked.”
Medlock said he had around $ 80,000 in school loans between him and his mother. Smith’s commitment has already inspired him to think about ways to pay him back, he said.
“He wants us to start offering it, and I think that’s an amazing thing, because it really shows black men taking care of other black men,” Medlock said.
Smith previously announced a $ 1.5 million donation to the school, and the additional pledge to pay off student loan debt for the 2019 class is estimated at $ 40 million.
“Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you get an education. Where you go to school shouldn’t determine whether you get textbooks,” Smith told this year’s graduates. “The opportunity you gain access to must be determined by the ferocity of your intellect, the courage of your creativity, and the courage that enables you to overcome expectations that were not high enough.”
According to Forbes magazine, Smith’s net worth is around $ 5 billion. He has previously given generously to Cornell University, one of his alma maters, as well as to cancer research and the arts.
Smith is the first African-American to sign the Giving Pledge, a campaign launched by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett that encourages the world’s richest individuals to pledge to devote the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes.
Upon signing the pledge, Smith wrote: “Potential is no guarantee of progress. We will only grasp the staggering potential of our time if we create ramps that allow ALL people to participate, regardless of background, country of origin, religious practice, or gender. , or the color of the skin. “
Smith continued, “My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent upon all of us to pay for this legacy.”