Billionaire Surprises Grads With $1,000 Each, Encourages Them To Give Half to Charity


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Graduating from college is an emotional milestone for many young adults. It's a major accomplishment to finish a degree, but it's also a transitional period. Grads might be free from studying for exams, but they're also going to have to start paying off student loans. Over half of American college graduates have student debt, with the average having tens of thousands in loans. So having an envelope with $1,000 to accompany their degree would be a welcomed surprise. A lucky 12,000 students from the Class of 2024 at UMass Dartmouth got just that as a bonus for walking last week during what was a rainy ceremony. The man who could turn over $120,000 in one fell swoop? Billionaire Robert Hale Jr., who did attach one string to the money: they had to pass half of the money forward to a charity or person in need.

Founder and CEO of Granite Communications, Hale accepted an award for philanthropy at the ceremony and then gave the students some advice. Hale, who Forbes Magazine reports is now worth $5.4 billion, shared how in 2002 his previous business filed for bankruptcy. He went from being the 7th richest person under the age of 40 to being the “biggest loser.” While he felt like a failure, only six months later he founded the company that has made him so wealthy today. He urged the students, “It's okay to fail. Life will give you challenges, and if you take those challenges, you'll fail from time to time.”

His second piece of advice was that “if you give a little bit of yourself, your life will be better for it.” The minority owner of the Boston Celtics then wrapped up his speech “after cutting 20 mins out.” Only a few moments later, he returned, ostensibly interrupting the chancellor about to hand out diplomas. Hale joked that he loves hearing himself talk so he decided he'd give the part of the speech he cut out. This was all a ruse. He went on to tell the students, sitting in pouring rain, that his wife Karen and he were giving the students two gifts. “The first is our gift to you, and the second is the gift of giving,” Hale explained. He then pointed to a truck filled with envelopes, each one stuffed with $500. One envelope was for them to keep, and the second to give away.

The students were thrilled, and it turns out this is not the first time Hale and his wife have handed out envelopes. Last year, he gave students at UMass Boston the same two-part gift, and prior to that he had handed out envelopes at Roxbury Community College and Quincy College, another Boston area community college. He plans to continue the tradition, and undoubtedly colleges are lining up to invite him to be their commencement speaker next year.

Billionaire Robert Hale Jr. congratulated the graduates at UMass Dartmouth with a surprise gift of $1,000 each.


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He also encouraged them to give half away to a charity or person in need, saying, “Our community and our world need our help now more than ever. The greatest joys we’ve had in our life have been the gift of giving.”

h/t: [The Associated Press]

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Elizabeth Beiser

Elizabeth Beiser is a Contributing Writer and Project Coordinator at My Modern Met. She has a background in American Cultural History with a special focus on Modern art and democratic community building. She received her B.A. in history, with a minor in Studio Arts, and her M.A. in history from the University of Rochester. She has worked on multiple political campaigns, as well as in non-profit operations and direct service. When she’s not writing, she’s experimenting with all varieties of arts and crafts. She also enjoys spending time with four-legged friends and exploring her hometown of Boston.
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