Alumni Alumni: Turning inspiration into action: UMass Dartmouth’s Class of 2024 gives back

Alumni Alumni: Turning inspiration into action: UMass Dartmouth’s Class of 2024 gives back
Turning inspiration into action: UMass Dartmouth’s Class of 2024 gives back

Robert Hale’s philanthropic gift to the Class of 2024 inspired a wave of generosity as graduates responded to his call to give back.

Students smile with diplomas
Members of the Class of 2024 upheld their end of the deal with Robert Hale and gave back half of the funds they received at graduation.

Amidst the drumming of raindrops on a sea of umbrellas, UMass Dartmouth’s undergraduate Class of 2024 received their diplomas on Cressy Field, marking the culmination of a four-year journey that transformed them into skilled professionals poised to enter the workforce. Not even the gloomy weather could dampen their excitement of becoming college graduates and turning the page on the next chapter in their lives.

Rather, the downpour provided a fitting contrast to the unexpected surprise awaiting them—a thousand-dollar ray of sunshine from philanthropist and Granite Telecommunications CEO, Robert Hale, and his wife, Karen. But there was a catch: they had to pay it forward.

Hale implored each student to give $500 to a charity or cause close to their heart, hoping to inspire a spirit of generosity among these newly minted alumni. Now, months later, the pressing question remains: What impactful choices did the Class of 2024 make with Hale’s gift?

Learning the value of philanthropy

As the Class of 2024 celebrated their accomplishments, they also embraced Hale’s philanthropic challenge with responses that reflected their personal values and aspirations for sparking positive change. From supporting local nonprofit organizations to repaying family members for their support, these recent graduates held up their end of the deal and felt the impact they made with their kindness.

In her four years as a nursing major and track & field athlete, Amanda Little ’24 grew an unmatched love for Sharing the Harvest Community Farm, a nonprofit, volunteer-driven community farm that alleviates hunger in the region.

“I first heard about Sharing the Harvest Farm from the Athletics department,” Little explained. “Every year, each team volunteers for the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance event that the Leduc Center hosts there. It was a really amazing way to bond with new teammates, and I loved being able to give back to the community in this way.”

Students farm vegetables to combat food insecurity
Through the Leduc Center of Civic Engagement, the UMass Dartmouth community makes an annual visit to Sharing the Harvest Community Farm in September as a way to remember lives lost in the tragedies of 9/11.

Little also completed her community clinical for her nursing degree at Sharing the Harvest Farm, where she was an active participant in their mission to fight food insecurity in the SouthCoast. Upon Hale’s challenge, it was a no-brainer for Little; she donated that $500 to where she first learned about the power of giving back.

“I was really into volunteering and donating whatever I could before this gift,” said Little, “but I feel like starting your career off by donating to a special cause is really powerful and teaches us all a lesson about the value of generosity.”

Some students gave back to other nonprofit organizations, like College of Arts & Sciences graduates Polly Feitelberg ’24 and Aidan Corey ’24. Feitelberg donated her $500 to the Fall River Boys & Girls Club, where it was matched by the club thanks to an ongoing campaign, while Corey gave back to Fall River’s Faxon Animal Shelter in memory of the beloved cat he adopted there over twenty years ago.

College of Engineering graduate John Willy III ’24 donated his funds to the V Foundation for Cancer Research in honor of his family members that have suffered from the disease. He said, “Being a college student and just starting my career, I’ve never had much of an opportunity to give back financially. But I think just giving that gift made me realize all the other ways that I can make a difference that aren’t strictly monetary. I think that’s what Hale wanted to inspire in the graduates.”

Students even gave back to UMass Dartmouth like nursing major Sara Fusaro ’24, who donated funds to Jeanne’s Cupboard, an on-campus pantry that supplies food and necessities to any student in need. She said, “When I was unemployed and could not afford food, I was able to go there and get healthy food for me and my kids. I figured this was a perfect way to give back.”

Meanwhile, other students chose to give back to those that love them the most: their families. Garret Magalhaes ’24 gave his $500 to his sister, a rising sophomore in college who needs financial assistance for the upcoming academic year. Similarly, William Pires ’24 showed his gratitude for his parents’ support during his time at UMass Dartmouth by giving them the funds.

William Pires, John Willy III, Amanda Little
William Pires '24 (left), John Willy III '24 (center), & Amanda Little '24 (right)

“Without my mother and father’s financial help, I would have never been able to finish college and achieve everything that I’ve strived for. I am forever grateful to Robert Hale for inspiring me to give back to my parents,” said Pires, who even keeps the envelopes the money came in as personal mementos. “These funds made me realize that the gift of giving does not end. It will keep happening so long as the idea of paying it forward continues.”

These words from Pires echo the sentiment shared among UMass Dartmouth’s Class of 2024, whose actions illustrate how a single moment of generosity can create ripples of impact. Hale’s challenge not only facilitated immediate support for numerous organizations and personal causes, but also instilled a profound understanding of the everlasting value of philanthropy in these students. As they move forward, they carry with them the promise to perpetuate this cycle of giving in the future.