NATIONAL NEWS

Billionaire rains cash on UMass graduates to tune of $1,000 each, but says they must give half away

May 20, 2024, 12:47 PM

MEREDITH, N.H. (AP) — The clouds weren’t alone in making it rain on the commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth last week. On stage, billionaire philanthropist Rob Hale surprised the graduating class of more than 1,000 by pointing to a nearby truck holding envelopes stuffed with cash.

Huddling under ponchos and umbrellas at the soggy ceremony, the graduates yelled and cheered, their mouths open wide, as Hale announced he was showering cash upon them. Security guards then lugged the cash-filled duffel bags onto the stage.

Hale told the students each would get $1,000. But there was a condition: They were to keep $500 and give the rest away.

Hale said the greatest joy he and his wife Karen had experienced in their lives had come from the act of giving.

“We want to give you two gifts. The first is our gift to you,” Hale told the students. “The second is the gift of giving. These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring and giving. Our community needs you, and your generosity, more than ever.”

The founder and chief executive of Granite Telecommunications, Hale is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $5.4 billion. He owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics.

It’s the fourth year in a row that he has given a similar gift to a group of graduating students. Last year it was to students at UMass Boston, and before that it was to students at Roxbury Community College and Quincy College.

But the students at UMass Dartmouth had no idea in advance that Hale would be speaking. Graduating students that didn’t attend the ceremony missed out on the money. Hale told students his path to success had been rocky, after his previous company Network Plus filed for bankruptcy in 2002, during the dotcom crash.

“Have you ever met someone who lost a billion dollars before? Hale said, as he joked about giving the students career advice. “I may be the biggest loser you ever met, and you have to sit in the rain and listen to me.”

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Billionaire rains cash on UMass graduates to tune of $1,000 each, but says they must give half away