The graduating seniors of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles must have already felt excited during their May 15 commencement ceremony — the Class of 2022 was likely eager to celebrate their achievement of overcoming the many obstacles to earning their degree, including a pandemic.
When Otis President Charles Hirschhorn stepped to the podium, everyone in the audience thought he was about to close out the ceremony. However, the president had a huge surprise for the 285 graduates on behalf of Evan Spiegel, founder of the social media platform Snapchat, who had just received an honorary degree from Otis.
“We are pleased to announce today that Evan and Miranda [Kerr, Spiegel’s wife], through their Spiegel family fund, have made the largest single gift in the history of Otis College,” Hirschhorn announced. “Their gift will enable you to repay your student loans.”
After a moment of stunned silence, the crowd erupted into cheers, and tears of joy began to flow from the surprised students. Otis posted phots of the students’ reactions on Facebook.
“I’m speechless,” Otis graduate Yartiza Velazquez-Medina told The Los Angeles Times after the ceremony. The graphic design major told the newspaper she had $70,000 in college debt she would have had to pay off before the endowment.
Robert Gauthier, a photojournalist for The Los Angeles Times, caught the students’ reaction to the news with his camera.
“The moment you realize someone else is paying your #collegedebt,” he posted on his Twitter account.
The moment you realize someone else is paying your #collegedebt @evanspiegel @MirandaKerr @latimes https://t.co/YMrig5CK3F pic.twitter.com/MlIoa5a2cv
— Robert Gauthier (@rgaut999) May 16, 2022
Spiegel attended summer classes at Otis College of Art and Design while he was still in high school. Apparently, he never forgot his time there, even though he ended up going to Stanford University, where he met his Snapchat co-founders, for college.
Following the ceremony, Spiegel and Kerr released a statement explaining the generous gift.
“Otis College of Art and Design is an extraordinary institution that encourages young creatives to find their artistic voices and thrive in a variety of industries and careers,” the couple said in the statement. “It is a privilege for our family to give back and support the Class of 2022, and we hope this gift will empower graduates to pursue their passions, contribute to the world, and inspire humanity for years to come.”
Student loan debt affects more than 43 million borrowers, who are carrying an average debt balance of $37,014, according to EducationData.org.
“Otis College is incredibly grateful for this historic gift from Miranda Kerr and Evan Spiegel, which will be life-changing for the Class of 2022 and their families,” Hirschhorn said in the press statement.
“Student debt weighs heavily on our diverse and talented graduates. We hope this donation will provide much-deserved relief and empower them to pursue their aspirations and careers, pay this generosity forward, and become the next leaders of our community.”
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