A college commencement.
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Robert Hale, the founder, and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, gave 2,500 graduating students $1,000 each.
But he called on the graduates to donate half of the gift, or $500, calling it the “gift of giving.”
He isn’t the only billionaire donating to college students. His gift is unusual in that it went direct to the recipients.
A billionaire telecommunications tycoon gave thousands of graduating students $1,000 each on Thursday — but the money comes with a catch.
Robert Hale, the cofounder, and CEO of wholesale telecommunications provider Granite Telecommunications, handed out two envelopes totaling that amount to University of Massachusetts Boston students at their graduation ceremony.
He then urged them to donate half of the gift, or $500, calling it the “gift of giving,” according to media reports, including NBC Boston.
“There are two sets of envelopes: One says ‘Gift’ and one says ‘Give.’ The first is for you, the ‘Gift’ is for you. The ‘Give’ is also for you, but it’s to give,” Hale said, per the NBC report.
—NBC10 Boston (@NBC10Boston) May 26, 2023
A CBS News video of the event shows shocked graduates cheering while workers pulled out stacks of envelopes from bags following Hale’s announcement.
Since there were 2,500 students from the undergraduate cohort at the commencement, the gifts worked out to $2.5 million for Hale — which is just a small dent to his $5 billion fortune, according to Forbes’ estimate.
Hale, 56, made his fortune from the privately held Granite, where he owns a 70% stake, Forbes reported in an October 2022 profile. The telco generated over $1.6 billion in revenue in 2021 and doesn’t hold any long-term debt, per the publication.
It’s not the first time Hale pulled such a surprise.
In May 2022, Hale gifted $1,000 each to 150 graduates at the Roxbury Community College in Boston, per NBC Boston.
In 2021, he also gave $1,000 to every 490 graduates at Quincy College in Massachusetts. He also told the students to donate half the amount. It’s unclear if the donations were tracked.
Hale’s cash gift could help the freshly minted graduates who are stepping into the workforce amid high inflation in the US that reached 4.9% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to UMass Boston’s bursar’s office, in-state undergraduate students pay over $15,000 in fees per year.
US student loan debt has also increased massively over the years, hitting 1.73 trillion collectively in 2021 from $925 billion in 2011, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, citing data from the Federal Bank of St Louis.
Hale isn’t the only billionaire donating to college students recently — although his gift is unusual in that it went direct to the recipients.
Billionaires typically donate to the colleges themselves, such as in the case of Ken Griffin, founder of hedge fund Citadel, who gave $20 million to Miami Dade College to launch a new scholarship in April.
Hale and his wife Karen are active philanthropists, donating about $1 million each week in 2022 to 52 nonprofits, Forbes reported in October 2022.
Hale did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment sent via Granite Telecommunications outside regular business hours.