South Shore businessman Robert Hale and his wife Karen Hale once made the biggest donation that Connecticut College ever received. Now, they are topping their own record.
College president Katherine Bergeron announced this week that the Hales have pledged $30 million to the school. That gift is the largest in the college’s history, beating the $20 million the couple gave in 2015.
For Robert Hale, chief executive of Quincy-based Granite Telecommunications and owner of FoxRock Properties, the latest gift is a chance to give back at a time when many colleges are struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many great institutions, because of the pandemic, have had to pull in their sails, figuratively,” said Hale, who graduated from Conn. College in 1988. “Now that we’re exiting the pandemic, I wanted Conn. to come out full steam ahead.”
The $30 million gift will be split equally among three priorities at the 1,800-student college in New London, Conn.: $10 million for financial aid, $10 million for athletics, and $10 million for immediate improvements to the campus infrastructure.
At Granite, Hale has built one of the largest privately owned telecom companies in the country, with about 2,300 employees, including nearly 1,600 based in Quincy. Hale, who majored in history and played varsity lacrosse at Conn., said he believes a liberal arts education and college sports can prepare you in many ways for a career in business. Sports teaches leadership, teamwork, and rebounding after losses. And liberal arts classes provide critical thinking skills.
“I think Conn. is the right combination of intellectual curiosity and compassion,” said Hale, a member of the college’s board of trustees. “The school instructs you really well in how to learn. So much of business today, and business training, is so focused on individual skillsets. [But] I really think some of the best teammates here at Granite, or any other company, are folks who graduate with an open and bright mind.”
Other big beneficiaries from the Hales’ donations have included Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Deerfield Academy. Robert Hale also oversees the “Saving by Shaving” event, which has spurred the likes of Governor Charlie Baker and football star Tom Brady to shave their heads over the years, raising millions for charities each year.
Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.