HOUSTON — The 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College is now known around the world thanks to a Texas billionaire who paid off the student debt of the entire class.
On Sunday, billionaire tech investor and philanthropist Robert Smith, wrapped up his commencement speech like this, “My family is making a debt to eliminate your student loans!”
Sugar Land’s Alexander Sims and Beaumont’s James Payne were among the students.
Sims and Payne said they were all so shocked, it took a minute for the estimated $40 million present to sink in.
“He said that and all of us were kind of like, wait...wait a minute,” Sims said.
“It was a weird moment,” Paynesaid. "We were all like, wait. Like, did he just say wipe out all of the student debt for the entire class?”
“And then, when it really clicked with us, all of us jumped up and started jumping and crying and hugging each other,” Sims said.
“I could hear moms crying I could hear dad’s crying,” Payne said.
Morehouse College is a prestigious, historically black college in Atlanta. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is among its many notable alumni.
“Morehouse is all about creating 'Morehouse Men' that are ready to not only have an education, but use that education to create an impact and change the lives of others," Sims said.
Payne said the yearly cost of tuition, housing, books and meals comes out to nearly $50,000.
“It’s a big thing to knock off that much money in loans and to not have that weight over your head,” Payne said.
Both Payne and Sims are continuing their education in the fall. Payne will attend Harvard Law School and Sims will attend Howard Law School.
Both students believe Smith’s expensive gift will leave a priceless impact on their lives and are already thinking about how to pay it forward.
“It drives me to give back more. So hopefully one day I can do the same,” Payne said.
The Houston Morehouse Alumni Association had raised more than $100,000 in the past 7 years, benefiting Houston-area students in the form of scholarships. For more information about the association and how to contribute, tap/click here.
ALSO POPULAR ON KHOU.COM