Commencement Speaker Brings Duffel Bags of Cash and Gives Graduates $1,000 Each — with a Catch!

Robert Hale Jr. gave all 1,200 grads in the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Class of 2024 the unique gift

<p>Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty; John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty</p> The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Robert Hale Jr.

Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty; John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; Robert Hale Jr.

A group of new graduates just received a special (and meaningful!) graduation present.

At the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s 2024 commencement on May 16, one of the ceremony’s speakers, Robert Hale Jr., brightened up the rainy day with a special surprise for the crop of 1,200 graduates.

After giving an address about failure and perseverance, recalling an instance in which he lost $1 billion, the founder and CEO of Granite Telecommunications — who received the college’s Chancellor's Medal for his philanthropy work at the ceremony — revealed he had more than just advice for the new graduates.

Just before degree conferral at the university’s Cressy Field was about to start, Hale returned to the podium and told the crowd that “the greatest joys” he and his wife Karen have experienced in life are “the gift of giving” — a gift he then gave to the soon-to-be alumni.

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"We decided that after this talk of giving, let’s act on giving,” Hale said, and lauded the students for the “turbulence” they’ve “weathered.”

“Each of you is getting $1,000 cash,” he told the Class of 2024, who cheered loudly — and dropped their jaws in shock.

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The businessman-philanthropist doled out the gift by bringing two large duffel bags onstage, each packed with envelopes filled with cash — which the UMass Dartmouth grads would collect along with their diploma as they crossed the stage, he said.

But only half of the sum will actually belong to the students. The other $500, Hale said, must be given to someone in need, or a cause close to their hearts.

Related: 11 Sets of Twins to Graduate from Same Pennsylvania High School Together

"We want to give you two gifts,” he told the soon-to-be grads, who buzzed with excitement. “The first is our gift to you, the second is the gift of giving.”

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The cash-filled envelopes — which were “customized” by elementary school students — were labeled either “gift” or “give,” accordingly.

"These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring and giving,” Hale said, adding, “Our community and our world need our help now more than ever.”

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