Robert F. Smith’s speech at Sunday’s Morehouse College graduation ceremony started like most. The billionaire entrepreneur and Austin resident extolled the virtues of hard work and the benefits of a college education, then the speech took a turn.
“This is my class, 2019,” Smith said. "And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”
The reality of what Smith said took a few seconds to sink in for the graduating seniors of the all-male college, but when it did, they then began chanting "MVP." The school's tuition costs $33,000 a year with financial aid, according to the U.S, Department of Education.
"I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” Smith continued. "And let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward.”
His gift to the class is estimated to total $40 million – that's on top of a $1.5 million donation he gave to Morehouse in January.
Smith was born in Colorado, educated at Cornell and Columbia, and now lives in Austin. He started his investment career at Goldman Sachs after several years as an engineer. Then he co-founded Vista Equity Partners, an investment firm that manages $46 billion in assets. Forbes estimates Smith’s personal worth to be $5 billion.