Billionaire Robert F. Smith, who received an honorary doctorate at Morehouse College’s Sunday morning graduation exercises, had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school.
But during his remarks in front of the nearly 400 graduating seniors, the technology investor and philanthropist surprised some by announcing that his family was providing a grant to eliminate the student debt of the entire Class of 2019.
“This is my class,” he said, “and I know my class will pay this forward.”
The announcement came as a surprise to Smith’s staff and to the staff at Morehouse, and elicited the biggest cheers of the morning.
Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III is a member of the Class of 2019, estimates that his student loans are about $70,000.
“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she said.
The gift has been estimated to be worth up to $40 million.