Commencement Speaker Gives Each Grad $1K—But There’s a Catch

Darren McCollester
Darren McCollester

College graduates at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth were left stunned at their commencement ceremony this week, captured in footage with their mouths agape as a billionaire announced he was gifting each of them $1,000.

Even better, the graduates would be getting the money on the spot, with the tech CEO Robert Hale Jr. handing them a pair of envelopes—each stuffed with $500 cash—as they walked across stage, he explained.

“Each of you is getting $1,000 cash right now,” he said, to the crowd’s bemusement.

The only catch—Hale asked each student to donate the cash in one of the envelopes to a charity of their choice or to someone in need.

“The first $500 is our gift to you,” he screamed over cheers. “The second $500 is for you to give to someone else or an organization that could use it more than you. Share in the joy of the gift of giving.”

The public university, which isn’t affiliated with the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College that sits three hours north in New Hampshire, had 1,100 graduates at Thursday’s ceremony. If each walked across the stage as expected, that means Hale doled out $1.1 million of his estimated $5 billion net worth.

“These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring and giving,” he said. “Our community needs you and your generosity more than ever.”

Hale founded and runs Granite Telecommunications in nearby Quincy, Massachusetts, and is a co-owner of the Boston Celtics. He held up a pair of duffel bags he carried on stage as he delivered his commencement speech, saying that’s where the students’ surprise graduation gift was.

Hale gifted $1,000 to graduates at UMass Boston last year, with the same stipulation, though the gesture didn’t garner as much media attention as his boisterous speech through a downpour this week.

A university spokesperson told Fox Business that 40 percent of the graduates were first-generation students.

The university said Hale told students about how he lost nearly $1 billion overnight but persevered. In a statement, the university said Hale “urged them not to let failure define them.”

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