Graduating students at the University of Massachusetts Boston were surprised with a special gift as they walked across the stage on Thursday morning. Billionaire Rob Hale, a commencement speaker during the ceremony, announced he was giving out envelopes with $1000 in cash to each graduate. 

“Now, we come to the moment our graduates and their families have been waiting for,” Chancellor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco said after about an hour and a half of graduating speech and performances, reported The Boston Globe.

Students started lining up to receive their diplomas when Hale interrupted. He made the surprise announcement as students began to cheer.

Each 2023 graduate received the money split in two envelopes — one for them and one they can donate.

“These are turbulent times. You guys have survived. You have prospered. You are to be celebrated,” Hale said. “We want to give you two gifts. The first is a gift to you. The second is the gift of giving.”

Hale, who is the co-founder, president and CEO of Granite Telecommunications, had issued his commencement speech earlier in the ceremony. According to the news outlet, he mentioned his first company, Network Plus, which filed for bankruptcy two decades ago.

“Have you ever met someone who lost a billion dollars before?” he asked. “There’s a very good chance I’m the biggest loser you’ve ever met. And now you guys are getting career advice from me.”

“If you give a little more than you get, your life will be better because of it. I promise you,” he added.

It isn’t Hale’s first time donating cash envelopes to graduating students. In 2021, he gave the same gift to graduates at Quincy College. 

“It’s honestly great for them to give back like that,” William Dos Santos, an electrical engineering graduate, told The Boston Globe. “A lot of us are needing this money for starting off work.”

According to UMass Boston, about 59% of undergraduate students are first-generation college students, many of immigrant parents. Tuition fees at the university are $15,535 per year for in-state students and $37,211 for out-of-state students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, this is just below the average tuition price for a private college in the country.

The surprise gift comes as President Joe Biden issued an executive order to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt relief last year. According to Forbes, the House passed a bill to repeal the plan, and the bill is currently awaiting a ruling at the Supreme Court.