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Philanthropist Stuns Graduates

Billionaire technology investor Robert F. Smith (left) with David Thomas and actress Angela Bassett at Morehouse College graduation ceremonies in Atlanta on Sunday. Smith announced he will provide grants to wipe out the student debt of the entire graduating class - an estimated $40 million. (AP photo)

(AP) -- A billionaire technology investor stunned the entire graduating class at Morehouse College when he announced at their commencement Sunday that he would pay off their student loans, estimated at up to $40 million.

Robert F. Smith, this year’s commencement speaker, made the announcement while addressing nearly 400 graduating seniors of the all-male historically black college in Atlanta.

Smith, who is black, is the Founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family that have been in this country, we’re gonna put a little fuel in your bus,” the investor and philanthropist told graduates in his morning address.

The announcement immediately drew stunned looks from faculty and students alike. Then the graduates broke into the biggest cheers of the morning and stood up, applauding. Morehouse said it is the single largest gift to the college.

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