ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - A billionaire technology investor and philanthropist says his family is providing grants to wipe out the student debt of the entire 2019 class at Morehouse College.
Robert F. Smith made the announcement Sunday morning in front of nearly 400 graduating seniors and elicited the biggest cheers of the morning.
Smith received an honorary doctorate from Morehouse during the ceremony. He had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school in January, which would fund an endowment scholarship and the creation of a new park.
“You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity,” he told the students during his speech.
Morehouse College is an all-male historically black college located in Atlanta.
Athens native Jyrekis Collins told FOX 5 News the gift will change the course of his life. He borrowed nearly $70,000 to supplement the scholarships he received to earn a religion degree from Morehouse.
For me, this is nothing but God's doing and a reminder that God will clear a path and make a way out of no way. It just shows you God has a bigger plan for all of us. A lot of us were really worried about how we work going to pay off that much debt over the years," said Collins, 22, from his church in Bogart.
Collins is headed to Yale University to study Divinity on a full-ride scholarship. He told FOX 5 News Smith's generosity it's something he hopes to be able to do for others as a teacher and a preacher.
"I was raised by a single mother in a tough part of Athens where people don't always make it out. I am a true testament that God will pave the way and pay the way for you. If I could meet Mr. Smith, I would hug him until he fell to the ground," said Collins as he smiled.
Smith is the Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies. He is also the largest private donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The numbers haven't been calculated yet, but some estimate the pledge will top tens of millions of dollars.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.