Billionaire Robert F. Smith awoke the crowd at the opening ceremony of Morehouse College on Sunday when he quit the script to announce a surprise: He would abolish the student loan debt for the nearly 400 graduates of the 2019 class.  There was a moment of stunned silence before the graduates and their families burst out in joyous applause. Within minutes, praise for Smith spread beyond Atlanta College and became one of the most inspiring stories of the weekend.
The billionaire tech manager and philanthropist has spent much of his career living and working in Austin himself. He rarely interviews and is so unremarkable that the museum's directors wondered, "Who's this Robert F. Smith? "When the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in 201
Here are five things you need to know about Robert F. Smith:
A knack for computers led to his fortune.
As a junior in high school, Smith received an internship at Bell Labs – calling the company every week for five months until he got a slot. Smith worked on computers during the summer and winter holidays and studied chemical engineering at Cornell University. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, followed by an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. After advising billion-dollar mergers for technology companies such as Microsoft and Apple, he left Goldman to start Vista Equity Partners. He continues to be chairman and CEO.
The company invests in software and data companies and now has more than Forbes assets of $ 46 billion. Forbes estimated Smith's net worth at $ 5 billion. He is the richest black man in the country.
Large donor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Before the museum was opened, Smith promised a gift of $ 20 million (behind Oprah Winfrey's $ 21 million pledge). In an exclusive interview with The Post in 2016, Smith said he was scared to escalate the racial tensions that threatened the very opportunities he and his parents once sought. Smith specifically referred to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the 2014 fatal shootings of Michael Brown and the riots after Freddie Gray's funeral in Baltimore.
"The vision I sold as a child is riddled. I see the little tears in the company every day. This can not be, "Smith told The Post.
Smith's donation to the African American Museum was designed to digitize photos, videos and music – and to help promote an interactive experience for a 21st-century museum. The gift also allows the museum to archive photos of other institutions such as museums, funeral homes and personal collections.
"We wanted it to be a living, interactive museum where we tell our own stories Our way," Smith said at the time.
Other Important Donations
Prior to the closing speech on Sunday, Smith Morehouse had donated $ 1.5 million for scholarships and a new park. In 2016, Smith and Cornell University's Fund II Foundation jointly donated $ 50 million to their school of chemical and biomolecular engineering and to support black and female engineering students. (Cornell renamed the school to Smith.) In 2017, Smith also put his name on the Giving Pledge – a commitment of the richest individuals and families in the world to donate most of their wealth.
Smith grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Denver. His parents both had a doctorate in education and insisted that the house be filled with music – be it a live show on the house piano or Leontyne Prices arias on the stereo. Smith brought this early musical influence into his later tech career.
"A beautifully written software code is a lyrical concert," he told the Washington Post in 2016.
Smith was also the first African American to be chairman of Carnegie Hall in New York in 2016.
] A personal life under the radar. , , in a sense
Although Smith has largely stayed out of the limelight, he lives it differently. During his wedding with actress and former playboy model Hope Dworaczyk on the Amalfi Coast in 2015, John Legend, Seal and Brian McKnight sang.
His love for music is reflected in the name of two of his sons, Hendrix, and legend – a tribute to the musicians Jimi Hendrix and John Legend.
Smith is said to own one of Elton John's old pianos.
This story has been updated to illustrate the donation to Cornell University.