Michelle Obama to speak at Eastern Kentucky University commencement

First lady Michelle Obama will speak to a group of graduates and their guests on May 11 at Eastern Kentucky University.
First lady Michelle Obama will speak to a group of graduates and their guests on May 11 at Eastern Kentucky University. AP

First lady Michelle Obama will speak at one of Eastern Kentucky University's May 11 commencement ceremonies, the White House announced Thursday.

Obama will address graduates from EKU's College of Education and College of Business and Technology at 7:30 p.m.

Obama's appearance in Richmond will be part of her Joining Forces initiative to support veterans and military families. Military Times ranked EKU first nationwide in its 2013 "Best for Vets" survey. According to that survey, 787 of the school's 16,062 students in 2011-12 were military-affiliated students.

The university offers a variety of services for veterans, including full-time counseling and advising, and job placement, the White House said in its statement.

"We are honored and thrilled to have First Lady Michelle Obama coming to Eastern Kentucky University," EKU President Doug Whitlock said in a statement Thursday. "It is very gratifying to know that Eastern's national reputation for supporting veterans and military families has been recognized by the White House. This is a remarkable affirmation of the efforts of our faculty and staff."

Whitlock will retire this summer. Last week, the EKU Board of Regents chose Michael Benson, the president of Southern Utah University, to replace Whitlock.

"On a personal note, I cannot imagine a finer way to help conclude my final commencement as EKU's president than to welcome the first lady to our campus and to make her an official EKU alumna," Whitlock said.

EKU will present the first lady with an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters. The ceremony involving her will require tickets.

There will be two other ceremonies earlier in the day. The first ceremony, at 9 a.m., will recognize degree candidates in the colleges of Health Sciences and of Justice and Safety. Former University of Kentucky President Charles Wethington will speak, and he'll receive an honorary law doctorate.

Author Silas House will speak at the 1:30 p.m. ceremony to degree candidates in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The Laurel County native, who earned a bachelor's degree in English from EKU in 1993, will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

The 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ceremonies are open to the public.

If You Go

Because of limited seating and to ensure that graduates' families are able to attend, the 7:30 p.m. ceremony with Michelle Obama will be restricted to those holding tickets. Graduating students, in addition to receiving one ticket each for personal use, will receive six tickets for use by family members; remaining tickets will be distributed by general lottery.

To pick up tickets, graduating students must appear in person at the EKU Athletic Ticket Office in Alumni Coliseum any weekday between April 22 and May 3, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Degree candidates must show a valid EKU ID, and the candidate's name must be on the list of graduating students.

Those who wish to submit a request for general lottery tickets must complete a form at by no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 3. The submissions will be selected at random, and individuals will be notified by the end of the business day on May 6 if their ticket request has been chosen. Availability of lottery tickets is limited to two tickets per entry and one entry per person.

All attendees that evening will be required to go through a security screening similar to that encountered at airports. Doors for the 7:30 p.m. ceremony will open at 5:30 p.m.