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Fresh Graduates Receive $1000 Cash Surprise Each at Commencement, and Valuable Life Lesson

Robert Hale Jr. instructed the grads to keep $500 and donate the other half to a charity or cause.
PUBLISHED MAY 20, 2024
Cover image source: Graduation (representative image) | unsplash | Photo by RUT MIIT
Cover image source: Graduation (representative image) | unsplash | Photo by RUT MIIT

A group of fresh graduates at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth received a special graduation present. At the 2024 commencement on May 16, one of the ceremony’s speakers, Robert Hale Jr. surprised 1,200 graduates with a cash prize of $1000 each. The Granite Telecommunications founder and CEO gave each undergraduate two envelopes, each filled with five $100 bills, per The Herald News.



The first $500 envelope was a first graduation gift, the second was supposed to be given to someone in need or a charity/cause. While the weather was wet and windy, Hale’s approximately $1.2 million gift suddenly turned the day bright.

(L to R) Stephen Urquhart, President Omega; Robert Hale, President and CEO of Granite Telecommunications; and Robert Griffin Jr., New England Area President of Cushman & Wakefield | Getty Images | Photo by Darren McCollester
(L to R) Stephen Urquhart, President Omega; Robert Hale, President and CEO of Granite Telecommunications; and Robert Griffin Jr., New England Area President of Cushman & Wakefield | Getty Images | Photo by Darren McCollester

Hale gave an inspiring address about failure and perseverance, sharing his own story of an instance where he lost $1 billion. Hale also received the college’s Chancellor's Medal for philanthropy work at the ceremony. Just before the degree conferral at the university’s Cressy Field began, Hale returned to the podium and dropped the greatest gift for the graduates. "We decided that after this talk of giving, let’s act on giving,” Hale said, per The Herald News.

After lauding the students for the “turbulence” they have “weathered,” the businessman-philanthropist doled out the gift. Security persons brought two large duffel bags onstage, each packed with envelopes filled with cash. Hale said that UMass Dartmouth grads would collect the envelopes and their diploma as they crossed the stage.

Jaws dropped across the Cressy Field upon Hale’s announcement. The loudest cheer was heard from the students across the campus.



Cameron Rodgers, a track field star for UMD and a 2019 Durfee High graduate, said he was floored and excited by Hale's gesture. “Oh yes. I have debt,” he told The Herald News. Rodgers also mentioned that he was impressed by Hale's address. Hale’s advice of embracing failure and his story of becoming a billionaire, then almost going bankrupt, and then gaining it all back struck a chord with Rodgers.


@dailymail Billionaire Robert Hale Jr. gifted University of Massachusetts Dartmouth graduates $1,000 each - but there was a catch! The Granite Telecommunications founder, who’s worth $5 billion, told the grads they could each keep $500 ‘as a gift,’ and the other $500 were to be donated to charity. In his speech, he said, ‘These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring, and giving.’ 🎥 UMass Dartmouth #umass #billionaire #commencement #classof2024 #charity #giving ♬ original sound - Daily Mail

Meanwhile, the marketing major said that due to a hectic schedule since graduation, he hasn't yet decided to whom or to which charity he will be giving the money. “I've been looking at some,” he said.

Robert Hale Jr. is the founder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, a wholesale telecommunications provider. As per Forbes, he has a net worth of $5.4 billion as of May 20, 2024. The company provides voice, data, and other communications services to businesses and governmental agencies across the U.S. and Canada. Hale founded Granite in 2002, after his previous company, Network Plus, filed for bankruptcy. Hale mentioned his first company going under as the biggest failure of his career, in his speech at the UMD. "There's a good chance I'm the biggest loser you've ever met," Hale told the graduating class. However, he didn't let the defeat define him.



As per Forbes, his company generated over $1.8 billion in sales in 2022 and has over two-thirds of the largest 100 U.S. companies as clients. Hale also owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics, and he has personally donated over $270 million towards cancer research, educational institutions, and other charitable causes.

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