Congrats, Grad! Morehouse Keynote Speaker Pays Off Debt of Graduating Class

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Now we know exactly what it takes to upstage Angela Bassett: Forty million dollars, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

On a hard-earned day of celebration for hundreds of families, Morehouse upped the ante on black excellence.


After the casually ethereal Bassett spoke, Robert F. Smith, the billionaire tech investor and philanthropist received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse College at its Sunday graduation ceremony.

Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm founded in 2000. In 2017, Vista Equity Partners had more than $30 billion in assets under management. In 2018, he was declared the richest African American by Forbes Magazine, surpassing Oprah Winfrey.

Smith, who had already pledged $1.5 million to the school, was not to be outdone by the university that invited him to speak at commencement.


So Smith announced that his family would provide a grant to pay of the student debt of the entire graduating class of 2019.

“This is my class,” Smith said, “and I know my class will pay this forward.”

According to the AJC, Tonga Releford, whose son Charles graduated with the class of 2019, estimated her son’s student debt at around $70,000.


“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” Releford said of her son’s portion of the gift, said to be worth more than $40 million in total; the money is believed to be the single largest donation ever given to the university or any of its students.

On social media, the news was met promptly with jokes:


Congratulations to the Morehouse Class of 2019 and graduates everywhere. If your alma mater failed to find a speaker to pay off your debt, it could be worse: Rutgers misspelled my name on my official degree.

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Ibn Safir

Contributing Editor. When he's not pullin' up, he's usually jumpin' out. You can find him in the cut.