Billionaire investor Robert F. Smith announced during his commencement address at Morehouse College that he’d pay off all class of 2019 graduates’ student loan debt — a gift that could amount to as much as $40 million.


The announcement, as well as 56-year-old Smith himself, has earned widespread attention since Sunday.

Here’s what you need to know about Smith:

He’s worth $5 billion

Smith’s net worth amounts to $5 billion, according to Forbes, making him the richest black person in America.

He was ranked 355th on Forbes’ Billionaires 2019 list.

He is the founder and CEO of a major tech investment firm

Smith is the founder, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, which focuses on investing in software companies. Since founding the firm in 2000, he’s overseen transactions valued at more than $120 billion combined, according to a biography on the company’s website.

He previously worked at Goldman Sachs in tech investment banking, as well as at Kraft General Foods.

This isn’t his first donation to Morehouse

In January, Smith pledged $1 million to the college to fund the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program. He donated another $560,000 for a park that would serve as an outdoor study space for students.

Morehouse awarded Smith its “most prestigious award for community service” in 2018, according to the college’s website.

He has a history of philanthropic efforts

In addition to his donations to Morehouse, Smith pledged $50 million to Cornell University — where he got his bachelor’s degree in 1985 — to support chemical and biomolecular engineering, and African American and female students in the engineering school.

In 2017, Smith joined the Giving Pledge — which also boasts commitments from Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet — vowing to give more than half of his wealth away to philanthropic or charitable causes.

And Smith’s $20 million gift to the National Museum of African American History and Culture is one of the largest by an individual donor.