Billionaire Robert Hale Gifts a Thousand Dollars Each to UMass Dartmouth Grads

The telecommunications executive has previously made surprise cash gifts at university commencements and, as usual, there's a catch.

Man in graduation hat and gown puts hands together
Robert Hale at the 2023 commencement for UMass Boston. John Tlumacki/Boston Globe via Getty Images

Robert Hale, the billionaire CEO of Granite Telecommunications, made a surprise announcement earlier this month while speaking at an undergraduate commencement ceremony at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Pointing to a nearby truck near the end of his speech, Hale revealed that it contained thousands of cash-filled envelopes for the university’s 1,200 graduating students.

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Duffel bags were brought up on the stage, and each student received two $500 envelopes marked “gift” and “give”—the first to keep and the second earmarked to donate to a charitable cause or someone in need. “These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring and giving,” said Hale at the ceremony. “We want to give you two gifts: the first is our gift to you, the second is the gift of giving.”

This isn’t the first time the telecommunications executive and his wife Karen Hale have given out cash to graduate classes. In 2023, the couple gave $1,000 to the more than 2,500 graduating students at UMass Boston, again with half to be put toward philanthropic endeavors. Hale donated the same amounts in 2022 and 2021 to Massachusetts community college graduates while speaking at ceremonies for Roxbury College and Quincy College respectively.

“We decided after this talk of giving, lets act on giving,” added Hale during the UMass Dartmouth graduation, where he received the university’s Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his past philanthropy. He also discussed his career failures and successes with the crowd, going over the time he lost $1 billion overnight in the early 2000s after his first company Network Plus filed for bankruptcy. Hale subsequently found success with the Massachusetts-based Granite Telecommunications, a wholesale communications provider he founded in 2002 that saw more than $1.8 billion in sales last year.

The telecommunication tycoon’s track record of philanthropy

Hale, who owns a minority stake in the Boston Celtics, currently has an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion, according to Forbes, and has put upwards of $270 million toward charitable causes, particularly in education and cancer research. Much of his philanthropic giving has been done in experimental ways. In 2022, Hale and his wife donated $1 million each week of that year, with $52 million going to fifty-two nonprofits focused primarily on medical and environmental causes.

In April, the billionaire celebrated his completion of the Boston Marathon by giving back more than $26.2 million to more than seventy local charities, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Boston Public Library Fund, Animal Rescue League of Boston and a planned children’s fieldhouse to be built by the Martin Richard Foundation and Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester—the latter of which received $9 million. Other major donations include the $100 million the couple gave to Boston Children’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2018.

“Our community and our world need our help now more than ever,” said Hale in his speech to UMass Dartmouth graduates, adding that, “the greatest joys we’ve had in our life have been the gift of giving.”

Billionaire Robert Hale Gifts a Thousand Dollars Each to UMass Dartmouth Grads