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Morehouse College's Class Of 2019 Gets A Big Commencement Surprise

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. Robert Smith is a billionaire investor and philanthropist. He gave a commencement speech this weekend at Morehouse College, and he gave something else, too. Smith had already pledged a gift of $1.5 million to the historically black, all men's college in Atlanta. And then he said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROBERT SMITH: We're going to put a little fuel in your bus. Now I've got the alumni over there, and this is a challenge to you, alumni. This is my class - 2019.

(APPLAUSE)

SMITH: And my family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.

(CHEERING)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Eliminate their student loans. He's speaking here to almost 400 graduates, pledging to pay off their debts. So this is a gift that could run into the tens of millions of dollars. It is a gift that came with some instructions. Here's Smith again.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SMITH: Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward. And I want my class to look at these alumnus, these beautiful Morehouse brothers, and let's make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward.

KING: Morehouse College President David Thomas told CNN the gift gives the students the, quote, "liberty to follow their dreams, their passions." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.