The technology investor was the 2019 commencement speaker at the all-male college and promised his family would clear the debt during his speech.
“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that 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,” Smith said to the more than 400 graduates. “I know my class will make sure they pay this forward … and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward because we are enough to take care of our own community.”
According to 11Alive, before the ceremony, the billionaire announced a gift of $1.5 million to the historically Black college. The student loan repayment is valued at another $40 million.
The 2017 EBONY Power 100 honoree and inaugural recipient of the John H. Johnson Award, of is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Business School. Smith, psychologist Edmund W. Gordon and actress Angela Bassett received honorary degrees from Morehouse during the commencement.
The large donation to the Atlanta college isn’t Smith’s first to an institution of higher learning. Three years ago, he promised $50 million of his personal money to Cornell.
The philanthropist also gives generously to charitable causes, many of which focus on preserving Black history, through his Fund II Foundation. He donated $20 million in 2016 to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Watch his full speech about the Black experience in America and the importance of paying it forward below.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.