Commencement speaker pledges to pay off students' loans

Tech and private equity titan Robert F. Smith surprised graduates at Morehouse College in Atlanta by announcing at graduation he would pay off their student loans.
2:42 | 05/20/19

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Transcript for Commencement speaker pledges to pay off students' loans
Now to an incredible act of it is changing the lives of hundreds of students. The commencement speaker at Morehouse college vowing to pay off the student loans of every graduate in the class of 2019 to the tune of $40 million. ABC's Steve osunsami is there at Morehouse college in Atlanta with more and, Steve, I know these graduates are happy this Reporter: They are. Administrators here at Morehouse had a copy of this speech in advance and none of this, Michael -- This is my class, 2019. I know my class will make sure they pay this forward. Reporter: This is the $40 million moment no one saw coming. On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we're going to put a little fuel in. My family is making a grant to eliminate their school loans. Reporter: Robert F. Smith surprised the graduating class at Morehouse college with a mountain of generosity promising to pay off the college debt of every student. There's nearly 400 in the class. Students, faculty, they couldn't believe their ears. The look on this man's face says everything, parents were overjoyed. I asked a person to the left of me and to the right of me, the person in front a back of me, is this really what he said? Reporter: Graduates jumped to their feet and had even more reason to dance across the stage while accepting their diplomas. For Brandon, this means he'll no longer carry more than $100,000 in student loans. I was completely shocked like that's actually the best gift I've ever received in mie life. Reporter: Robert F. Smith is the billionaire most Americans have never heard of, a tech and private equity titan with an estimated net worth of $5 billion. People call him the quiet billionaire but that changed a bit when he appeared here on the cover of "Forbes" magazine and moved past Oprah Winfrey to become the wealthiest African-American in the country. Grateful students are already talking about giving back. Robert Smith has changed my life and if I was in his position I would want to do the same thing as well. Reporter: Smith was the first black business leader to sign bill and Melinda Gates' giving pledge where the wealthiest Americans agree to give half of their wealth to philanthropy. Michael. Oh, wow, Steve. Incredible story. We've been smiling all morning about this one. Really amazing. Ripple effect. This is literally like changing. You take $100,000 from a young student and can take a different job and have a completely different page. It changed their descendants as well, not just the graduate but their children to come. Overtime thriller, the

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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