“It can be very challenging,” McKoy said. “You don’t have the family wealth or that generational wealth to fall back on if something goes wrong.”

Kirkland recalled that toward the end of Smith’s commencement address, before the gift was announced, students’ attention spans were beginning to wane. Smith wasn’t exactly a household name, Kirkland said. “We didn’t know who he was,” he said. “All we knew is we heard he was richer than Oprah.”

With $6 billion, Smith, 57, is richer than Oprah — and every other Black American, for that matter. He is one of few Black private equity titans in the world. He’s also the only Black American on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a ranking of the world’s 500 richest people.

During the speech, Smith encouraged students to “pay this forward.”

“Let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity moving forward, because we are enough to take care of our own community,” he said.

Kirkland says he’d like to set up scholarships for others someday — and Williams is hoping that some think of the students who came before them.

“Maybe now they will be in a position to set us up, the people from 2018, with opportunities,” Williams said. “Or maybe they’ll help us pay off ours.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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