Dumbfounded graduates erupted into cheers and chants at the University of Massachusetts Boston as the commencement speaker, Quincy-based billionaire Rob Hale, interrupted the school’s chancellor to announce he would give each of the 2,500 soon-to-be graduates $1,000 just moments before they crossed the stage Thursday.
Each graduate at the university’s 55th commencement ceremony received the cash split into two envelopes, so they could donate half.
“These are turbulent times. You guys have survived. You have prospered. You are to be celebrated,” Hale, co-founder, president, and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, said. “We want to give you two gifts. The first is a gift to you. The second is the gift of giving.”
Hale had earlier delivered his commencement address on the theme of rising up from failure, and paying it forward through philanthropy.
The cash gift was a gesture Hale, who joined Senator Elizabeth Warren as the commencement speakers for Umass Boston this year, has made before. While delivering the 2021 commencement address at Quincy College, he also gave graduates there $1,000 in cash, split in two envelopes.
Hale and his wife, Karen, are known for their philanthropy. Also in 2021, the couple gave $30 million to Connecticut College, his alma mater, to support financial aid, athletics, and improvements to campus infrastructure. It was the largest gift in the school’s history.
Last year, the couple donated $52 million total to charities, coming out to about $1 million a week.
Hale made the Forbes list of billionaires for the second time this year, with a listed net worth of $5 billion.
About 59 percent of UMass Boston undergraduates are first-generation college students, many of immigrant parents, according to the school’s website.
Sonel Cutler can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @cutler_sonel.