Lights, camera, charity!

Austin billionaire’s HBCU initiative gets a boost from Hollywood’s Steve Harvey

Austin billionaire’s HBCU initiative gets a boost from Steve Harvey

The Steve Harvey Show, Steve Harvey
The comedian and TV host is supporting historically Black colleges through his partnership with Austinite Robert Smith. Photo by Chuck Hodes/NBC

Austin billionaire Robert Smith has enlisted some high-profile help with a program he established that primarily benefits students at historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S.

The Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation, associated with comedian and TV host Steve Harvey and his wife, Marjorie, has become a strategic partner of the Smith-founded Student Freedom Initiative. The nonprofit initiative helps students at minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities, achieve professional, personal, and financial freedom.

Twenty-nine schools participate in the initiative, including three in Texas — Prairie View A&M University, west of Houston; Texas College in Tyler; and Texas Southern University in Houston. Texas is home to nine HBCUs.

The addition of the Steve and Marjorie Harvey Foundation to the initiative’s team will provide “support of our critical mission to advance the narrative surrounding minority-serving institutions and the students they support,” Smith says in a November 4 news release. “Together, we look forward to sharing and promoting the extraordinary talent of our students in a competitive global economy.”

Harvey adds: “Access to quality, affordable higher education is one of the most important steps our community can take towards achieving racial equity.”

Smith is founder, chairman, and CEO of Austin-based investment firm Vista Equity Partners. With an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion as of November 9, Smith has been a generous supporter of HBCUs.

The Washington, D.C.-based Student Freedom Initiative launched this year. Smith contributed $50 million to get the nonprofit off the ground. The Austin-based Fund II Foundation, where Smith is founding director, also chipped in $50 million.