Commencement speaker surprises UMass Boston graduates with $1,000 at graduation ceremony

May 27, 2023, 9:00 AM | Updated: May 30, 2023, 7:40 am

Granite Telecommunications CEO Robert Hale was the commencement speaker at UMass Boston's graduatio...

Granite Telecommunications CEO Robert Hale was the commencement speaker at UMass Boston's graduation ceremony and offered graduates $1,000. Photo credit: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

(CNN) — Graduates from the University of Massachusetts Boston left their graduation ceremony with more than just diplomas thanks to a generous billionaire.

Before walking the stage Thursday, 2,000 undergraduate students learned they’d be receiving two envelopes containing a total of $1,000, according to the university.

Commencement speaker Robert Hale, a billionaire CEO of a Massachusetts-based communications company, interrupted chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco as he began announcing the distribution of diplomas, the ceremony’s livestream shows.

“You guys have survived, you’ve prospered, you are to be celebrated,” Hale said at UMass Boston’s 55th undergraduate commencement.

Hale, the founder and CEO of communications services provider Granite Telecommunications, told students they’d also be getting $1,000 cash, which led to a roar of excited cheers and applause, the livestream shows.

“You’ve overcome. It’s not easy,” said Hale, whose commencement speech followed that of co-keynote speaker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“We’re here and we are proud of you,” Hale said.

Encouraging younger generations to give

One envelope contained a $500 gift for each student, while the other held $500 for the students to gift someone “or another organization who could use it more than you,” Hale explained.

“This is a celebration of all you’ve done to be here,” he said.

UMass Boston graduate Wendy Humphreys told CNN she and several other graduates were shocked when Hale returned to the stage for the announcement.

“I looked at my friend and jokingly said, ‘he’s going to give us each $2,000 each,’ but I was completely kidding,” Humphreys said.

She was astounded to discover she wasn’t completely wrong, she said.

“I can now scroll through GoFundMe and donate to causes that speak to me,” Humphreys, who majored in English, said of her plans for the gift portion of the cash. “I care a lot about abortion access and LGBTQ rights, so I plan to donate to those causes.”

A friend of Humphreys, UMass Boston graduate Addie McElreath, 27, said she felt Hale likely introduced a new generation to the act of giving.

“A lot of college students probably never had the time, money or opportunity to donate or gift to others before now,” McElreath told CNN.

Her grandparents traveled from Maine to see her earn her bachelor’s degree in English.

“I think that’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes to something I think is really important societally, which is just giving as much as you can,” McElreath said.

Hale said he believes the graduates will put the funds to good use, he told CNN’s John King.

“We hope (they) take the money, give it to an individual or an organization and feel the joy, and I am telling you, it is intoxicating … and they will want to do it more frequently,” Hale said.

“It will become a trait that carries on for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Hale made the 2023 Forbes billionaires list with a net worth of around $5 billion, according to CNN affiliate, WBZ-TV.

Hale has previously extended his generosity to recent graduates. In 2021, he received a standing ovation at Quincy College’s commencement in Quincy, Massachusetts, after gifting graduates with $1,000 each, CNN affiliate WCVB-TV reported.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

United States

The IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert & Warning System) will be tested October 4. (Screenshot from Twi...

Elizabeth Ellcessor, University of Virginia and Hamilton Bean, University of Colorado Denver

Nationwide test of Wireless Emergency Alert system could test people’s patience – or help rebuild public trust in the system

The Wireless Emergency Alert system is scheduled to have its third nationwide test on Oct. 4, 2023.

1 hour ago

President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden arrives for a court appearance, in Wilmington, Del, Tuesday,...


Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to three federal gun charges filed after his plea deal collapsed

Hunter Biden faces charges that he lied about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days

2 hours ago


Haley Talbot, Kristin Wilson and Clare Foran

Matt Gaetz moves to oust Kevin McCarthy as House speaker

Rep. Matt Gaetz on Monday moved to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the top House leadership position.

4 hours ago

FILE - New graduates line up before the start of a community college commencement in East Rutherfor...

Mark Jones

With student loan payments starting up, financial advisor offers tips

With the arrival of October, student loan payments will now resume.

14 hours ago

Apple is blaming a software bug and other issues tied to popular apps such as Instagram and Uber fo...

MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

Apple says it will fix software problems blamed for making iPhone 15 models too hot to handle

Apple is blaming a software bug and other issues for causing its recently released iPhone 15 models to heat up and "becoming too hot to handle."

2 days ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Sunday that American aid to Ukraine will keep flowing ...


Biden says there’s ‘not much time’ to keep aid flowing to Ukraine and Congress must ‘stop the games’

President Joe Biden says American aid to Ukraine will keep flowing for now as he tries to reassure allies of continued U.S. financial support for the war effort.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

close up of rose marvel saliva blooms in purple...

Shannon Cavalero

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Utah

The best drought tolerant plants for Utah can handle high elevations, alkaline soils, excessive exposure to wind, and use of secondary water.

Commencement speaker surprises UMass Boston graduates with $1,000 at graduation ceremony