CORVALLIS - “Grand” is how the staff setting up for graduation at Oregon State University describes the look they’re going for.
First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver the commencement address Sunday before what is expected to be a game day sized crowd at Reser Stadium. Last year the event drew 18,000.
“We had to refigure the whole set up to accommodate a crowd of 33,000 this year,” said the director of commencement Kavinda Arthenayake, “There ‘s a lot more interest because of the speaker.”
The set up began Sunday and was expected to be finished by Thursday.
It includes two giant screens and is being watched carefully by White House and Secret Service staff. Concerns about security mean some changes in procedure. Every person entering the stadium will need a ticket.
Each graduate was given eight tickets and a thousand were distributed to the public.
“We have 17 family members coming from Florida, Seattle and Chicago,” said Nancy Tomb, the mother of a graduate, “it should be a great time.”
Expect airport like security with everyone being screened by a metal detector and a pat down search is also a possibility. No balloons, backpacks or wrapped presents will be allowed. There is a break in tradition.
Graduates will gather at the indoor practice facility close to the stadium instead of meeting at the Memorial Union and walking through campus.
“We have to be able to have the more than 3,500 graduates pass through security and this was a way to make that happen efficiently,” said Arthenayake.
Each graduate will get a diploma with their name on it at the ceremony and that includes the First Lady.
She’ll be awarded an honorary doctorate in Public Health. The Sunday afternoon ceremony begins at 3:30 p.m..
“Not many people can say the First Lady spoke at their graduation,” said a smiling 2012 OSU graduate, “it’s pretty cool.”