CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University will graduate the largest class in its history this Sunday, June 17, during its 138th-annual commencement. The ceremony, which will be broadcast live over Oregon Public Broadcasting, begins at 2 p.m. in Reser Stadium.

Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, political adviser to the United States European Command and an OSU graduate, will give the commencement address.

OSU President Ed Ray and the academic deans will hand out diplomas to graduating students. Oregon State is one of the few major universities of its size to present actual diplomas to its graduates during commencement.

An estimated 4,313 students are expected to receive 4,497 degrees this year, with about half of those students expected to attend the commencement ceremony. The number of degrees easily surpasses last year’s record totals when 4,178 students received 4,334 degrees.

Family and friends of graduating students won’t need a ticket to gain access to the ceremony at Reser Stadium this year, according to Kavinda Arthenayake, chair of the university’s commencement committee.

“The new side of Reser Stadium can accommodate more than 18,000 people and last year we had about 14,000 guests,” Arthenayake said. “Now students won’t have to worry about who should or should not be invited to the ceremony due to a limited number of tickets.”

Previously, the university allocated eight tickets per student – a tradition established when commencement was held in Gill Coliseum, which had a smaller capacity.

Among the special awards to be presented during commencement will be the university’s 2007 Distinguished Service Award, which goes to Rollin G. “Rollie” Sears, one of the world’s leading wheat breeding experts who launched his career after earning a Ph.D. from OSU in 1979. Sears has developed more than 30 different wheat varieties that have been grown on more than 100 million acres since 1988, producing grain valued at more than $14 billion.

Ambassador Yates and noted screenwriter Mike Rich will receive honorary doctorate degrees from the university.

In her role as political adviser, Yates formulates and recommends policy options and provides counsel to leadership on all United States European Command political and military affairs, pertaining to U.S. forces operating across more than 90 countries in Europe, Asia, African and the Middle East. She has served in numerous leadership capacities, with posts in France, Burundi, the Republic of Ghana, Korea and the Philippines.

A native of Portland, Yates earned her bachelor’s degree in English from OSU.

Rich has become one of the most successful and acclaimed screenwriters working in the industry today, providing the framework for several award-winning films including “Finding Forrester,” “The Rookie” and “The Nativity Story.” His latest effort, currently in development, is “Manhunt.” Starring Harrison Ford, the film will tell the story of the hunt for Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Rich attended OSU’s College of Business in the early 1980s before joining KINK radio as a talk show host where, in his spare time, he wrote short stories and later screenplays. Rich then submitted his script for “Finding Forrester” to the Nicholl Fellowships competition, which he won, launching his new career.

Among OSU graduates receiving diplomas from OSU this year are 50 students earning Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees, which were bestowed in a separate ceremony on June 10. This is the first class of veterinary medicine students to receive their entire education at OSU; previous classes had to spend more than a year at Washington State University for the small animal component of their curriculum. Recent expansion allowed the OSU college to offer the entire program.

The OSU-Cascades Campus also has a separate ceremony, scheduled for June 16 in Bend. Some 190 students are expected to graduate and the state’s first branch campus will award its 1,000th degree.

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Kavinda Arthenayake,