But despite his past generosity, none of past generosity can quite compete with the searingly personal touch of Sunday's gift to the Moorehouse Class of 2019.
"Many of my students are interested in going into teaching, for example, but leave with an amount of student debt that makes that untenable", Mr Thomas said.
The shocking declaration incited an uproarious celebration and standing ovation from the predominantly Black student body near downtown Atlanta.
After making a fortune in software, he was named the nation's richest African-American by Forbes.
Billionaire Robert F. Smith announced to a class of about 400 graduating seniors that he and his family plan to pay off the entire class's student loans. "I want my class to look at these alumni, these attractive Morehouse brothers, and let's make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward".
Heralded as a private equity titan and Wall Street wiz, Smith started his early life out as a computer geek working in STEM before earning a degree in chemical engineering from Cornell University.
Smith, who received an honorary doctorate, had already announced a $1.5m gift to the college.
He offered to set up a grant to offset the $40 million student loans.
He was told the program was intended for college students, but Smith refused to take no for an answer.
Student debt in the USA amounts to $US 1.52 trillion as of June past year, according to Forbes.
As graduation season approaches, many are thinking of their next move whether it's looking for a career or figuring out how they are going to pay Sallie Mae. "When he said that, Oh my gosh, I perked up. Well done Robert F. Smith".
Fund II's list of commitments hints at Smith's own musical side. "To get all my debt paid off after that.that was like something I couldn't even imagine".
Jones, who graduated from the District's McKinley Technology High School, said tears of joy filled his eyes when he heard Smith's news.
Smith told the graduates during his commencement address.
"I've been teaching [at] Morehouse for 3 years now and I see firsthand the burden of costs for an education has on black folks", David Dennis Jr., a writer and adjunct professor of journalism at the college, said in a series of tweets.
Graduate Ernest Holmes of Sayreville, New Jersey, said he and his classmates were overwhelmed by Smith's announcement.
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