Commencement speaker pays off graduates’ debt

    By Michael King

    Robert F. Smith, gives the commencement Morehouse College on Sunday, May 19, 2019, in Atlanta. (Morehouse College photo)

    ATLANTA (WXIA) — Morehouse College graduation keynote speaker Robert F. Smith, philanthropist and investor, speaking to the graduating class of Morehouse men of 2019, proudly announced Sunday morning that he was going to eliminate all of their student loan debt.

    “My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” Smith said to the graduating seniors. “You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity.”

    A Morehouse official told 11Alive News the gift was worth about $40 million.

    “When Dr. King said that the ‘arc of the moral universe bends toward justice,’ he wasn’t saying it bends on its own accord. It bends because we choose to put our shoulders into it together and push,” Smith said during the speech.

    Smith, a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000 and has since built that firm into a billion-dollar enterprise, investing in technology and software around the world. The firm manages commitments of more than $46 billion and oversees a portfolio of more than 50 software companies globally.

    Smith, a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Business School, received an honorary degree from Morehouse on Sunday.

    He is the largest private donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and was the first and only African American business leader to sign “The Giving Pledge,” an initiative created by Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett, in which wealthy individuals pledge to give more than one-half of their wealth to causes such as poverty alleviation, disaster relief and global health and education.