DENVER (CBS4) — The class of 2019 at Morehouse College in Atlanta will leave school debt free, thanks to Denver native and Vista Investment Group CEO Robert F. Smith.
“My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” said Smith at Morehouse’s commencement ceremony Sunday. It’s a gift estimated at up to $40 million.
Before Smith was offering to pay off student debt, he was a student at East High School in Denver. He returned to his hometown in 2017 to speak at DU, his father’s alma mater.
“I want to be reminded every day of the profound impact DU had on my fathers life and my family,” Smith told DU seniors. He went on to say the colors of his father’s graduation robe inspired the logo for his firm Vista.
Vista Equity Partners is a private equity firm that invests in software, data, and technology-driven companies. Smith’s success has made him the richest African American in the country.
Speaking at graduations is only part of Smith’s work to empower younger generations. He provides educational, outdoor opportunities to Colorado students who wouldn’t experience them otherwise through his Lincoln Hills Cares foundation.
“He’s engaging, he’s friendly and he believes in giving back,” said Judge Gary Jackson, Smith’s friend.
Jackson first met Smith at Lincoln Hills. Jackson is on the board of the James Beckwourth Mountain Club, the former owner of Winks Lodge.
“We attempted to restore it, then we met Smith in 2012. He bought the lodge from us and is currently restoring the lodge,” explained Jackson.
Jackson and Smith crossed paths again in 2018. Smith returned to Lincoln Hills to speak with Boule scholars at an event hosted by Jackson.
“He believes in providing opportunities to young people and to organizations like the JBMC to be able to carry on a project that financially we were struggling with. He’s a good man,” said Jackson.
In addition to his work with Lincoln Hills, Smith’s Fund II Foundation has created grants for numerous charities. His investment firm Vista employs more than 600 people in Denver.