Ep. 007 – Morehouse’s Savior of Student Debt

Episode Summary – Morehouse’s president Dr. David A. Thomas tells HBCUbiquity’s host Thomas Joyner Jr. how billionaire Robert F. Smith’s plan to pay off Morehouse’s Class of 2019’s students’ debt will transform these students’ and the college’s future; Two of the graduating students – Josef Sorrells & Derrick Green – talk about “the moment” Smith shared the news; Quisa Foster, a veteran HBCU administrator, describes how significant this gift is for donors to any HBCU.


  • Robert F Smith, billionaire private equity firm manager and Morehouse College Spring 2019 commencement speaker, announced he would personally pay off the debt of the entire 2019 class.
  • Why is the gift significant?
  • Approx. 400 students with at least 90% with student debt
  • Meaning of a “Liberation” gift
  • Why there is a strong possibility of more African American male teachers produced as a result of the gift
  • Morehouse College is an institution in our community worthy of that kind of support
  • “Only 2% of African Americans can afford to attend Morehouse without any loans or scholarship, compared to 56% at predominately white liberal arts colleges” –  Dr. Thomas
  • Short-term challenges facing private HBCUS
  • Morehouse College is “small in quantity but large in quality”
  • Personal student reactions and how they plan to pay it forward
  • Other examples of this type of philanthropy on a smaller scale (ex. Exxon Mobile)
  • How to leverage this opportunity to donors
  • Tips on cultivating donors for larger gifts
  • The national average of alumni participation is 15%. At Clark Atlanta University it is 8%. Most HBCUs waver under 10%

HBCUs Mentioned in this Episode: Morehouse College, Spelman College, Interdenominational Theological Center, Howard School of Divinity, Clark Atlanta University, Hampton University


Dr. David A. Thomas currently serves as the 12th President of Morehouse College. President Thomas has over 30 years of higher education experience. He is a former Harvard Business School professor and the former Dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. President also has a great track record of fundraising.

Quisa Foster is the Assistant Vice President of Institutional Advancement at her alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. Ms. Foster is also a part of the TJF family as she is a former Director of College Relations at the Tom Joyner Foundation. 


Josef DeWaynne Sorrells is a 2019 graduate of Morehouse College from Dallas, Texas. Sorrells completed most of his college credits in high school, allowing him to complete his Bachelor’s degree in 2 years. During his tenure, he studied Political Science and had plans to attended Divinity school and later Law school. 

Derrick Green is a 2019 graduate of Morehouse College from Newark, New Jersey. During his tenure, he studied Sociology and has plans to become a public school teacher. 





Robert F Smith Twitter: @RFS_Vista

Robert F Smith Instagram: @robertfredericksmith

Morehouse College Twitter: @Morehouse

Morehouse College Instagram: @Morehouse1867

Morehouse College Facebook: Morehouse College

Dr. David Thomas Twitter: @ProfThomas ; @MorehousePrez

Josef Sorrells Instagram: @yaboyjosef

Josef Sorrells Facebook: @josefsorrells

Quisa Foster LinkedIn:  linkedin/quisadfoster

Quisa Foster Instagram: @IamQueFoster  ; @ladieswhomeanbusiness

Clark Atlanta University Twitter: @CAU

Clark Atlanta University Instagram: @cau1988

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The Tom Joyner Foundation was founded in 1998 as the brainchild of nationally syndicated radio personality Tom Joyner. The mission of the Foundation is to support historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with scholarships, endowments and capacity-building enhancements.

The Foundation has provided necessary support to every HBCU in its 20-year history to help sustain and preserve the legacies of these valuable institutions. Through fundraising and donor development initiatives, $65 million has been raised to support more than 29,000 students attending HBCUs.

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