When Robert T. Hale Jr., CEO of Quincy-based Granite Telecommunications and a prominent philanthropist, delivered the commencement address at Quincy College Friday, he did more than boost graduates’ spirits with soaring rhetoric: He gave each one $1,000 with the hope they’ll pass half their gift on to someone else, paying it forward amid a pandemic that’s devastated the region and the globe.
“We’re going to give each of you $1,000 cash, right now,” Hale told the more than 400 graduates to rousing applause. “The first $500, as I mentioned, is in the envelope entitled ‘Gift,’ and it’s for you. We’re proud of you. You worked your tails off to get here. Celebrate as you should. The second envelope, entitled ‘Give,’ is for you to give to another friend, family member, or an organization who in these times is struggling, who could use that a little more than you. Congratulations, Class of 2021!”
The graduates picked up their envelopes, which were decorated by students at Quincy’s Snug Harbor Elementary School, along with their diplomas as they walked across the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Before Hale’s surprise announcement, the graduates heard from Class of 2021 member Beatriz Martins.
“Quincy College has been a wonderful experience for me, and I’m sure for many others as well,” said Martins, describing herself as a “proud Latina” and first-generation college graduate in her family. “I am grateful for all the struggles I have faced, because they shaped me into a stronger and more persistent student. ... Remember to keep your head up, because one day you shall receive your blessing.”
Hale, during his earlier commencement address, urged the graduates to take risks in following their passions and to give of themselves. He said he’s known disappointment, most especially during a failed venture in 2002 that resulted in a bankruptcy and 400 employees losing their jobs.
“So I’ve been to the bottom,” Hale said. “I failed. And it hurts. But it doesn’t stop you, didn’t stop me. ... You’re leaders. You have persevered in hard times. Leaders take chances. Don’t worry about that. Failure will come. If you’re taking chances, failure will come. Don’t fear it, defy it.”
He praised the students’ diligence during an unprecedented year.
“You’ve worked really hard to get here in tenuous times,” Hale said. “You have a positive, impactful energy and the world needs it right now. Bring that energy into the world. Help us be a better place and ... find your own path.”
College president Richard DeCristofaro was also among the speakers, praising students for their academic drive.
“I commend you, our graduates, for being committed to your studies,” he said. “And I commend the dedication of our faculty and staff who have worked alongside you, believed in you, your ability to learn, to excel, and to fulfill your academic goals and dreams.”
The Quincy cash gift isn’t the first time Hale has donated generously to New England educational and medical institutions in recent weeks.
In April, Hale and his wife, Karen, gave $30 million to Connecticut College, his alma mater, to support financial aid, athletics, and improvements to campus infrastructure.
“This College changed my life, and Karen and I believe deeply in its mission, in its innovations as a liberal arts educator and the leadership skills it builds in students,” Hale said in a video clip released when the gift was announced. “More than ever, our society needs the kinds of graduates that this College helps develop, and we are honored to help do our part to stand with them. We hope others will join us.”
And earlier this month, the Hales and Judith B. Hale, Robert’s mother, pledged $50 million to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the hospital said in a statement. The donation will support Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, which was founded in 2016 with $15 million from the Hales, per the statement.
“More than 60,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this year, far too often at a late stage,” said Karen Hale. “It is critical to detect it early when it is most vulnerable, and to have newer, more advanced treatments available when we do. Dana-Farber has the best team of scientists and clinicians to do this urgent work.”
Judith Hale echoed those sentiments.
“Our intention is to substantially speed the pace of research and new treatments for this terrible disease,” said Judith Hale, who serves on the Dana-Farber Board of Trustees, in the statement. “We are investing in the exceptional talent at Dana-Farber because we are committed to finding a cure. That would be a wonderful honor for my husband and legacy for our family.”
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.
Correction: Because of inaccurate information supplied to the Globe, an earlier version of this story misstated the number of Quincy College graduates on Friday.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.