Billionaire CEO Gives Graduates From One College $1000 Each— But The Money Came With A Catch

His generosity had some strings attached.

3 students in graduation gowns Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

At its core, getting an education is about expanding your horizons and opening your perspective. 

Pursuing higher education is a gift, and for some recent college graduates, that gift offered them a surprise boost to starting the rest of their lives.

A billionaire CEO gave graduates from one college $1,000 each, but the money came with a catch.

Robert Hale Jr. is the co-founder and president of Granite Telecommunications and a part-owner of the Boston Celtics. The billionaire businessman was the commencement speaker at UMass Dartmouth’s graduation on May 23, 2024.


During the ceremony, Hale received the Chancellor’s Medal in recognition of his philanthropic work. In accepting the award, he literally put his money where his mouth is by giving the college graduates a gift they wouldn’t forget.

@nbc10boston “If you give a little more than you get your life will be better because of it, I promise you,” billionaire Robert Hale told UMass Boston graduates.#classof2023 #boston #graduation #fyp ♬ original sound - NBC10 Boston

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In congratulating the graduates, Hale touched on the ability of failure to open doors, referencing how his first company went bankrupt. He praised the power of perseverance and hard work, telling the students not to let their failures define them.

During his speech, Hale discussed the power of charitable giving, noting that for him and his wife Karen, “The greatest joys in life that we have experienced have come from giving.”

“We want to share that gift of giving with you today,” Hale told the graduating class.

“These trying times have heightened the need for sharing, caring, and giving,” he said. “Our community needs you and your generosity more than ever.”


students at graduation RDNE Stock Project / Pexels

Hale was joined onstage by two security officers holding duffel bags, each one stuffed to the brim with envelopes, and inside the envelopes was money for the graduating students.

Hale gave away 3,000 envelopes labeled 'gift' and 'give' with $500 inside, one for the college graduates to keep and one to donate.

The graduating class of 2024 at UMass Dartmouth included 1,200 students. Forty percent of those students were first-generation, and 31 percent were students of color.


Hale celebrated their tenacity, saying, "These are kids who are working their tails off to be there. We all should be proud of them. And they could certainly use the gift, which is great."

@boardroom Rob Hale’s net worth is estimated $5 billion. #celtics #nba #billionaire #umass #philanthropy (h/t @CNN ♬ original sound - Boardroom

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While Hale’s instinct to impart the importance of giving to a younger generation comes from a good place, the reality is that $500 doesn’t really go that far in our high-priced world.


The stipulation that the students have to give some of their money away is well-intentioned, yet it comes off as slightly self-aggrandizing, an act that allowed Hale to pat himself on the back for his valuable lesson.

two students studying together Keira Burton / Pexels

He’s put $270 million toward charitable causes, including cancer research and donations to educational institutions, both of which are entirely worthy of financial support.


Yet one could argue that the $1.2 million he gave the class of 2024 isn’t that much money, considering the fact that he’s worth $5.4 billion.

For graduating seniors who are embarking on the search for work while facing down looming student loan debt, $500 is a small drop in an overwhelmingly large bucket.

According to Forbes, student loan debt across the U.S. totals $1.75 trillion. Student borrowers owe an average of $28,950. 55% of students at public four-year schools have debt, and 57% of students from private schools have debt.


The pressure of making ends meet in a world that’s increasingly expensive casts a long shadow over any individual, especially for college graduates who are just starting out, trying to get their footing as the economy tilts and dips over and over.

People like Hale should be encouraged to keep giving; only their gifts should be based on true generosity, not self-serving stipulations.

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture, and all things to do with the entertainment industry.