Hale, after taking painful lesson to heart, gives back to Conn athletics

Rob Hale's success in the business world enabled the Connecticut College graduate to make a generous donation to his alma mater earlier this year.

But a failure during his undergraduate days played a vital role in his development and served as valuable life lesson.

Hale, a 1988 graduate, still remembers the pain he felt the day that men's lacrosse coach Fran Shields cut him from the team during his sophomore year.

The news hit him like a sledgehammer to the chest, as he broke down and cried.

"It was a terrible shock," Hale said Tuesday. "At the time, it was bitterly disappointing. But by the same token, it became an important life lesson. When you're a young man in college and you're on a team, for me that was a big part of my identity. To have that taken away, it was painful.

".... In retrospect, that was among the best things that happened to me because I didn't let being cut define me. I was able to go and find other important things that I can contribute to and help."

Now president of Granite Telecommunications, a Quincy, Mass. based company, Hale and wife, Karen, and two anonymous donors, combined to make a $1.6 million gift earlier this year to upgrade athletic facilities.

"I'm lucky that I'm in the position to help and I'm delighted to help," Hale said. "I wanted to help athletics, in particular the lacrosse program, so when this opportunity came about it was something that we focused on immediately."

Lights were installed at Silfen Field and improvements made to locker room and training facilities in Luce Field House.

The women's soccer team will host the first night game, playing Eastern Connecticut State University on Oct. 2.

"These lights are amazing," said Shields, now the athletic director while Dave Cornell serves as lacrosse coach. "They're going to help us so much. It's a huge upgrade."

Hale's lacrosse story had a happy ending.

During his break from lacrosse, he re-forged his identity within the college community. He eventually returned to play his final two years at Conn College.

"I realized that I had something very, very special by being on the team," Hale said. "And I wanted back badly. So I rededicated myself to making the team. They were some of the best times of my life."

Hale continues to follow the Camel lacrosse program and also coaches on the youth level in Massachusetts. His busy schedule has prevented him from checking out the improvements but he plans to make a trip to New London sometime this fall.

A history major and aspiring small business owner during his college days, Hale didn't take a traditional career path to success.

But, then again, how many former athletes cut from their teams years later make a sizable donation to benefit that same program.

"It all worked out in the long run for the better," Hale said.

g.keefe@theday.com

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