Campus News

Thanks to All Involved in Bringing Michelle Obama to Commencement

April 23, 2015
Marvin Krislov
President Marvin Krislov
Photo credit: John Seyfried

Just in case you haven’t heard, First Lady Michelle Obama will join Marian Wright Edelman in addressing the Oberlin College Class of 2015 at its Commencement ceremony on Monday, May 25 at 10 a.m. in Tappan Square. Mrs. Obama will be presented with the honorary degree Doctor of Humanities.

We are receiving this tremendous honor because a video about our Ninde Scholars program was selected as the winner of the First Lady’s national Near-Peer Mentoring Challenge. The video was produced by Patrick Gilfether ’15, a cinema studies major, working with Zach Christy, director of media production, and Kirk Pearson ’17, a double-degree student studying music composition and geography. It features Amethyst Carey ’16, a sociology major, and Oberlin High School senior Morgan K. Smith.

Kudos and thanks to everyone involved in creating the video! In addition to showcasing two terrific and talented young women, the video highlights the importance we—both town and gown—place on building and sustaining community partnerships and our shared commitment to providing educational opportunities for Oberlin’s young people.

Embracing the ethos of the First Lady’s Reach Higher Initiative, the Ninde Scholars program provides support and college access services to 7th- through 12th-graders in Oberlin City Schools preparing to be first-generation college students. Since its inception in 2005, 80 percent of the scholars have attended or graduated from a four-year college.

The program is named for the late Dick and Nan Ninde (NINE-de), former residents of Kendal at Oberlin. In 2002, the Nindes decided to help make it possible for all Oberlin High School students to attend college. They contributed $450,000 toward that cause and challenged the community to match their gift. Donations poured in from throughout Lorain County, particularly from Oberlin townspeople. The Ninde Scholars Program was launched in autumn of 2005 at Oberlin High School. In 2010, we launched the Aspiring Scholars Program at Langston Middle School.

That Mrs. Obama chose to come here affirms the great work and support that scores of people—Oberlin High School teachers and administrators; Oberlin College faculty, staff, and students; community volunteers, and donors—have provided the Ninde Scholars programs. Many thanks to all of you.

I also want to thank in advance Oberlin’s students, faculty, and staff—especially the folks from facilities, building and grounds, residential education, campus dining, and safety and security—who always do such a terrific job making our Commencement/Reunion weekend a success. While the First Lady’s visit is a huge honor, it is also going to mean a lot of work. All of us are going to have to pitch in to show Mrs. Obama Oberlin at its best.

I also want to thank Commencement Speaker Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), for her willingness to accommodate the unexpected visit by the First Lady. We are incredibly fortunate to have two such distinguished women speaking to our graduates, our community, and our guests. Their presence is even more meaningful since this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Commencement address presented by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in June 1965, titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.”

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