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Dear OCU Campus,

Next weekend, our university community will come together to celebrate our graduates. Commencement is a very special event that gives us the opportunity to recognize our students for their achievements and express the pride we have in our newest alumni.

I am looking forward to our ceremonies May 11 for several reasons. I am very fond of the Class of 2013 and will miss this great group of students, but I am pleased to celebrate this important milestone with them and pay tribute to their hard work and leadership.

I am also pleased to celebrate four very accomplished friends of OCU with honorary doctorates. Tony Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth, Chesapeake Energy’s Martha Burger and former Oklahoman Editor Ed Kelley will receive Honorary Doctors of Humane Letters at the ceremony while Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws.

Kristin Chenoweth holds a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music in opera performance from Oklahoma City University, and she is much deserving of a third OCU degree. She made her Broadway debut in Steel Pier, and starred in and won an Emmy for her role as Olive Snook on the ABC comedy-drama Pushing Daisies. She has appeared in a variety of television series including The West Wing, American Idol, Glee, and most recently in The Good Wife. Many remember her show-stealing, Tony-winning performance in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and the Broadway role she originated, Glinda the Good Witch, in Wicked, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination as leading actress. Kristin has appeared in The Apple Tree and Promises, Promises as well as in many off-Broadway and regional theatre productions. In 2009, she wrote a comedic chronicle of her life so far, A Little Bit Wicked, which debuted at No. 12 on The New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Best Seller list.

Martha Burger already holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Oklahoma City University and is the senior vice president of human and corporate resources for Chesapeake Energy. She is a member of our Board of Trustees and is an active civic and community leader. Martha received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Meinders School of Business at the 2011 Hall of Honor ceremony and is an OCU Distinguished Alumna.

Ed Kelley is an accomplished journalist and award-winning editor and reporter, who served as editor of The Oklahoman from 2003 to 2011 and as editor of The Washington Times. In 1996, he was named Editor of the Year by the National Press Foundation of Washington, D.C., for his direction of the coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing. He will give the commencement address during our undergraduate ceremony and I am looking forward to his speech.

Burns Hargis has served as president of Oklahoma State University since 2008. He has a long and distinguished legal and business career with active civic and philanthropic leadership across many fronts. He is familiar to many Oklahomans through the political perspective and wit he provided on the award-winning television program Flashpoint. He is a recipient of the state’s highest honor, having been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2009.

Another exciting component of this year’s commencement exercises is the presentation of the university’s first Ph.D. degrees. OCU will award its first Doctor of Philosophy degree to Cheryl Frutchey, who has completed the Kramer School of Nursing’s Ph.D. program. A second Ph.D. candidate also will be recognized. Carol Kish is scheduled to complete the program this summer. OCU introduced two doctoral programs at the Kramer School of Nursing in 2009, including the Ph.D. track for nurse educators and the state’s first Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program. The first DNP graduates were recognized last year and six more students will graduate Saturday including Diana Blackmon, Rachel Mack, Marie Pham-Russell, Cindy Rauh, Joe Rawdon, and Carol Rizer.

I hope you will join me in celebrating our honorary degree recipients and the Class of 2013 on May 11. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 11 a.m. and the graduate ceremony begins at 3 p.m. Both will be held in the Freede Center.

Also, the Oklahoma City University School of Law will hold its graduation and hooding ceremony at 2 p.m. May 19 at the Civic Center Music Hall.