Grads gifted $1,000, challenged by keynote speaker

BOSTON — Most graduates get gifts of all sizes, and in some cases, denominations. Still, this one came as a surprise for those who finished their studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

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Members of UMass Boston’s Class of 2023 received $1,000 each from their keynote speaker, businessman Robert Hale Jr., WHBQ-TV reported.

The grand given to grads wasn’t all for them though.

They each got to keep $500 of the $1,000 surprise. The other $500 was to go to someone — family members, a supporter or a local organization — who helped them over the years, our sister station reported.

CNN showed that when Hale announced the gifts, the crowd screamed as representatives pulled envelopes from bags. Each member of the class got two envelopes — one to keep and one to gift.

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Hale made the announcement moments before the almost graduates walked across the stage to accept their diplomas, UMass Boston said.

“These are turbulent times. You guys have survived. You have prospered. You are to be celebrated. You overcome,” Hale said. “It’s not easy. We’re here. And we are proud of you. We want to share in that celebration with you. We want to give you two gifts. The first is a gift to you. The second is the gift of giving.”

Hale, who owns a controlling stake in Granite Telecommunications and is worth about $5 billion, has donated millions of dollars to groups over the years, including Boston Children’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Connecticut College.

Last year, he and his wife Karen gave a total of $52 million to start endowments at grassroots organizations. He also gave the same challenge to the Class of 2022 of Roxbury Community College as he did this week at UMass Boston.

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