Michelle Obama will deliver OSU commencement address on June 17

Oregon State University announced Wednesday that first lady Michelle Obama will give the university’s commencement address.

Commencement is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 17, in Reser Stadium.

The first lady, who is the sister of OSU men’s basketball coach Craig Robinson, chose OSU as one of three universities where she’ll deliver commencement addresses this spring. Virginia Tech and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University are the other two.

The news of her appearance, spread by Twitter, Facebook and text, spread an undercurrent of excitement through Corvallis early Wednesday.

One young woman, overheard waiting for her car to be serviced, said into her cell phone: “Mom. You will never guess who is going to be my graduation speaker. Michelle Obama. For real! Yes!”

However, some speculation online concerns that additional security would be a burden to taxpayers. Although the Secret Service accompanies the first lady regardless of where she goes, it is possible that more local patrols and security also will be added.

How did OSU get the first lady as its graduation speaker?

OSU President Ed Ray invited Michelle Obama to give the address. He cited in his invitation the ties between her own work on behalf of youth health and the university’s commitment to fighting hunger and obesity.

The first lady’s “Let’s Move!” campaign promotes physical activity and healthy eating among children.

OSU researchers are currently examining rural childhood obesity issues with a $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant awarded in January 2011, and the Students in Free Enterprise team earned first place in Campbell Soup’s 2010 Let’s Can Hunger challenge.

Commencement originally was scheduled for Saturday, June 16, but the university changed the date to accommodate Michelle Obama’s schedule, said Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for university relations and marketing.

How to accommodate the inevitable public interest in seeing Michelle Obama’s appearance is still a work in progress, Clark said Wednesday.

Although Reser Stadium can seat 55,000 for a Beavers football game, in order to keep the ceremonial nature of commencement and seat the students and dignitaries in places of honor, no more than 25,000 people at maximum will be seated on the field and in the east bleachers.

Students participating in commencement — estimated at 3,000 for this year — will be given eight free tickets each for guests, leaving about 1,000 additional seats that might be distributed somehow — or not.

“We’re not sure how much opportunity there will be for general public admission,” Clark said.

OSU might have to reconfigure the layout of the stage area to accommodate public attendance.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to give commencement speeches at New York’s Barnard College on May 14, Joplin High School in Joplin, Mo., on May 21, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., on May 23.

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