ATLANTA — An incredible act of kindness by a philanthropist who offered to wipe away nearly $40 million in student loans has many wondering - who is Robert F. Smith?

Smith was selected to deliver the commencement speech at Morehouse College, and during Sunday's ceremony, he announced he would pay off the debt for the hundreds of graduates. (Click here to watch the moment) 

"My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans," Smith said to the graduating seniors. "You great Morehouse men are bound only by the limits of your own conviction and creativity."

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Smith is the CEO of Vista Equity Partners, a company that invests in software, data and other tech-driven companies. He founded the company in 2000 and has since built that firm into a billion-dollar enterprise.

Smith is a graduate of Cornell University and Columbia Business School, and was a chemical engineer before going into the investment and private equity sectors. He received an honorary degree from Morehouse on Sunday.

He's believed to be the richest African-American in the country with a net worth, according to estimates by Forbes Magazine, at $4.4 billion.

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He is the largest private donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and was the first and only African American business leader to sign "The Giving Pledge," an initiative created by Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett, in which wealthy individuals pledge to give more than one-half of their wealth to causes such as poverty alleviation, disaster relief and global health and education.