ATLANTA – 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 billionaire 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 elicited the biggest cheers of the morning.

TODAY AT 6 ON CHANNEL 2: We’re speaking with Morehouse president and students about their reaction to the generous donation.

“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans!” -Robert F. Smith told the graduating Class of 2019 @RFS_Vista #MorehouseGrad2019

— Morehouse College (@Morehouse) May 19, 2019


Tonga Releford, whose son Charles Releford III is a member of the Class of 2019, estimates that his student loans are right at about $70,000.

“I feel like it’s Mother’s Day all over again,” she said.

The gift has been estimated at $40 million.

Tonga’s husband, Charles Releford III, is also a Morehouse graduate. He said their younger son, Colin, is a junior at Morehouse. 

 He doesn’t know who the keynote speaker will be at Colin’s graduation ceremony but is hoping for a return performance by Smith. 

 “Maybe he’ll come back next year.”

© 2019 Cox Media Group.

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