Robert F. Smith is just one of the founders responsible for forming Visa Equity Partners, which is a private equity firm that focuses on SaaS technology. His estimated $5 billion net worth ranks him as the wealthiest African-American in the country. While this is an impressive achievement by any means, it’s all the more impressive when you consider Smith’s socio-economic background.

Robert F. Smith is the definition of a self-made man, who was raised in a largely black Denver, Colorado neighborhood. He came from a middle-class family and he was driven to succeed even from a young age. After high school, Robert attended Cornell University, where he majored in chemical engineering. He also attended Columbia University, earning his Masters in Business Administration. He worked his way through college at Kraft, where he learned about consumer goods from a giant in the industry.

After completing his education, Robert Smith was hired on at Goldman Sachs. While there, he served as a financial advisor to many of the country’s top corporations, including Apple and Microsoft. While his career helped him to earn that billionaire status, Mr. Smith has never forgotten his humble beginnings and still gives back to his community when he can.

Robert F. Smith Pays it Forward

Giving a recent commencement speech to the graduates of Morehouse College, Mr. Smith pledged to pay the tuition debt for the entire graduating class. There were close to 400 students graduating from Morehouse and the school’s president, David A. Thomas, estimates that Smith’s promise could end up costing him tens of millions of dollars.

This isn’t the first extravagant gift that Robert Smith has bestowed on the public. He also makes regular donations to various charities. Most recently, he contributed to the Giving Pledge, donating nearly half of his net worth to the cause. He also gave an additional $1.5 million to Morehouse College, which was earmarked for student scholarships and the construction of a new campus park.

A gift of $50 million was made to Cornell University. That donation from Robert F. Smith was designated for black and female engineering students. The gifts imparted to students are typical of Smith’s generosity. He continues to give back to his community, hoping to make it possible for others to succeed in whatever fields they choose. Robert F. Smith is setting a positive example for other philanthropists by giving something back to the causes that mean the most to him.