Till the ultimate minutes of their graduation ceremony final Thursday, the 1,200 graduates of the College of Massachusetts Dartmouth thought they knew what they might keep in mind most about it: the supremely dangerous climate throughout the outside ceremony, the place they sat drenched and shivering in a torrential rainstorm.

Then, as they ready to gather their diplomas, their graduation speaker, Rob Hale, a billionaire philanthropist from Boston, returned to the dripping podium. He introduced alongside two cash-stuffed duffel baggage, he introduced, and would hand each graduate $1,000 as they crossed the stage — $500 to maintain for themselves, and $500 to offer to any good trigger.

“My pals and I have been one another like, no method,” Ali McKelvey, one of many college students, stated. “We have been like, this must be a joke.”

It wasn’t. Mr. Hale, the co-founder and chief govt of Granite Telecommunications, ranks as one of many nation’s wealthiest folks and most beneficiant benefactors. He and his spouse, Karen, gave away $1 million each week in 2022, to each well-known and unheard-of causes.

Nonetheless, as he informed the graduates at UMass Dartmouth, he has by no means forgotten the expertise of shedding every part, when the primary firm he constructed went bankrupt within the dot-com crash greater than 20 years in the past.

“Actually, have you ever guys ever met somebody who misplaced a billion {dollars} earlier than?” Mr. Hale, a part owner of the Boston Celtics, asked in his speech, which he minimize brief due to the rain.

Since that catastrophe, he stated in an interview this week, he and his spouse have discovered deep pleasure and satisfaction in giving their cash away. In granting faculty college students an opportunity to expertise the identical feeling, he stated he hoped to mild a spark that they’ll carry with them — even when he had no assure that they’ll honor his request. (He stated he believes the overwhelming majority do.)

“In the event that they get to really feel that pleasure themselves, then perhaps it turns into one thing they wish to do once more, and make a part of their very own lives,” Mr. Hale, 57, stated. “In America and the world, these are occasions of turmoil, and the extra we assist one another, the higher off we’ll be.”

Within the week since a businessman that they had by no means met handed them two damp envelopes onstage — one labeled “GIFT” and the opposite “GIVE” — the brand new graduates have packed up dorm rooms, fine-tuned résumés and snapped final campus selfies. They’ve additionally contemplated the place to ship what for many would be the largest charitable reward they’ve ever had the possibility to offer.

Tony da Costa, a graphic design main who graduated with excessive honors, thought-about giving his $500 to a charitable group however determined as an alternative at hand it over to an acquaintance of his mom, somebody he has by no means met, who’s affected by an sickness and struggling to pay payments.

“I felt like giving it to a selected individual would really feel higher,” stated Mr. da Costa, 22, who grew up within the city of Dartmouth, on the southern coast of Massachusetts not removed from Cape Cod.

Kamryn Kobel, an English main, gave her $500 to the Y.W.C.A. in Worcester, Mass., the place she realized to swim as a toddler, to help its packages for younger girls and survivors of violence.

Her donation felt like one thing to be pleased with, she stated — as soon as it sank in that the envelopes she tucked below her rain poncho contained precisely what Mr. Hale had promised.

“At first, it was like, is there actually going to be money in there?” she stated. “After which it was like, oh my God, it’s for actual.”

Smaller and fewer well-known than the college’s flagship campus in Amherst, UMass Dartmouth enrolls about 5,500 undergraduates, greater than half of them first-generation faculty college students. Eighty p.c come from Massachusetts; 80 p.c obtain monetary assist.

It’s the fourth Massachusetts faculty campus within the final 4 years the place Mr. Hale has thrilled graduates together with his signature break up reward. Every time, he has chosen a public college with excessive concentrations of first-generation and lower-income college students who’ve “labored their tails off to get there,” he stated.

Final spring, he distributed the commencement presents on the Boston campus of UMass, the place 66 p.c of incoming college students establish as folks of coloration.

Final spring at Deerfield Academy, a non-public highschool in western Massachusetts with a extra prosperous enrollment, he put the focus solely on philanthropy, depositing funds in a school-directed belief so that every graduate might give away $1,000. Mr. Hale, who grew up in close by Northampton, graduated from Deerfield in 1984 and went on to Connecticut School.

In an interview on Wednesday, he briefly grew emotional describing how one of many UMass Dartmouth graduates had given her $500 to a neighborhood group that gives vacation presents for kids in want — a program that had helped her household when she was a toddler.

“Seeing issues like that could be very cool,” he stated.

Ms. McKelvey, 21, donated her $500 to a girls’s shelter in her hometown of Ashland, Mass., west of Boston, impressed by courses she had taken for her interdisciplinary main, well being and society, the place she realized concerning the struggles of deprived girls.

“I keep in mind sitting in a few of these courses and considering, ‘Somebody must do one thing about that,’” she stated. “And now I’ve the chance to do one thing.”

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