CNN For many college graduates, they may quickly forget the words or even the name of the commencement speaker. It’s probably safe to say the graduating students at Morehouse College Sunday will never forget the amazing gift they received from their speaker.
The commencement was delivered by Robert F. Smith, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners. As Chairman Smith was wrapping up his remarks, he delivered a line that sent every student and their loved ones into a frenzy.
“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” Smith told the stunned crowd.
Smith had already announced a $1.5 million gift to the school. The pledge to eliminate student debt for the class of 2019 is estimated to be $40 million.
The news left students in awe of the move.
“If I could do a back flip I would but can’t jump,” joked graduate Elijah Dormeus. "I started off with $47,000 at the time, that was freshman year. And then, each semester, and after every two years, tuition goes up, so that adds up."
All total, Elijah said the move by Smith will save him from repaying $90,000 in student debt.
“To remove that burden allows them to start this phase of their life with so much more potential than they had when they sat down here this morning. because they can now go do anything they want to do,” said Morehouse President David Thomas.
Thomas added he and Smith recently spoke about student debt, but he had no idea the conversation would lead to the philanthropist making such a large donation.
“I’ve seen a lot of graduations, I’ve been a faculty member for 30 plus years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Thomas said.
Smith said he expected the recipients to "pay it forward" and said he hoped that "every class has the same opportunity going forward."
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