Billionaire Offers Surprise Gift to Grads at Commencement

Robert Hale gifts $1K to each UMass Boston student during ceremony, with a heartwarming catch
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2023 7:45 AM CDT
Billionaire Offers Surprise Gift to Grads at Commencement
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/nirat)

Students being honored at Thursday's graduation ceremony at UMass Boston not only received their diplomas—there was also an extra-special gift waiting for them, courtesy of commencement speaker Robert Hale, the billionaire CEO of Granite Telecommunications and part owner of the Boston Celtics. CNN reports that as the university's chancellor, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, started to get the diploma dissemination underway, Hale stepped back to the mic with a surprise announcement.

As seen in the ceremony livestream, Hale noted to the students that they would each receive two envelopes. "One says 'gift,' and one says 'give,'" he said. Then he revealed more fully what that entailed. "Each of you is getting $1,000 cash right now!" he exclaimed, to excited cheers from the crowd. Hale explained that the first envelope of $500 was for the student to do with as they pleased. "It's a celebration of all you have done to be here today," he praised the soon-to-be grads. He added that the second $500 was to be donated to a person or group "who could use it more than you. Share in the joy of giving!"

One English major waiting to throw her cap in the air tells CNN that when Hale returned to the mic, she turned to a friend "and jokingly said, 'He's going to give us each $2,000.'" Now, Wendy Humphreys says, she not only has a little extra cash for herself, but she'll be able to donate to causes dear to her heart. Per Forbes, Hale gifted 2,500 graduates, for a total of $2.5 million. NBC Boston notes he made a similar philanthropic move last year, distributing $1,000 to each graduate from Boston's Roxbury Community College, with the same directive to give half of it away. (Read more uplifting news stories.)

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