CORVALLIS - A total of 3,558 Oregon State University students will receive diplomas at two separate commencement ceremonies on Sunday, June 16, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.

Students receiving master's and doctoral degrees will go through commencement during the morning ceremony, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Undergraduate students will receive their diplomas from 2 to 4 p.m.

This is one of OSU's largest graduating classes, a result of spiraling enrollment numbers that have seen the university's student body grow from 13,777 in 1996 to more than 18,000 this year.

OSU President Paul Risser and other university officials will present the degrees, and Risser will address the undergraduates. The graduates range in age from 18 to 72 years of age. Eighty-two students will receive two degrees; four students will receive three degrees.

In a class of more than 3,500 students, there are an equal number of different stories of challenges, achievements, and goals still to be achieved. Nerissa Carter, of Corvallis, is one such student. This June, she will graduate with a degree in liberal s tudies, but instead of entering the work force, she has chosen to use her skills in the Peace Corps. She will leave in September for an assignment in Ghana, Africa.

"I will be working with communities teaching health education and basic hygiene, with a focus on HIV/AIDS education," Carter said. "The Peace Corps has been a dream of mine for a long time now, and I'm quite excited to begin the journey."

Calvin Carlyle is another student who has parlayed his OSU education into a series of rewarding experiences. A starting defensive back on the 2000 Fiesta Bowl team, Carlyle defines the term "student-athlete." He was the recipient of a Howard Hughes Medic al Institute Research Fellowship and carried out his microbiology research in the lab of Janine Trumpy. He was selected to present his research findings at the 2002 national meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

And in his spare time, Carlyle spoke to numerous elementary school classrooms from Corvallis to Portland.

Many students overcame personal challenges to thrive at OSU. Sadie Wilson was student body president at Thurston High School in 1998, during one of the nation's most horrific shooting sprees that left two dead and 24 wounded. Wilson wrote her honors thes is about the aftermath of that tragedy and will graduate June 16 with an honors degree in speech communication.

Special awards will be presented to two individuals.

John A. Gardner, Jr., a professor of physics at OSU, will receive the university's Distinguished Service Award. Gardner, a nationally recognized physicist, lost his eyesight in mid-career due to glaucoma. He since has embarked upon a crusade to bring the world of science and mathematics to the blind, developing new technologies to allow visually impaired scientists to read charts, graphs and other formerly inaccessible materials.

An honorary doctorate will be presented to John S. Niederhauser, who has spent much of his professional life as a plant pathologist helping to feed the developing world while preserving the quality of the environment. He was awarded the 1990 World Food P rize in recognition of his work with national programs that have dramatically increased potato production in developing countries.

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Barbara Balz, 541-737-4048