Pomp, Circumstance, and the People Who Make It All Happen

When the President Comes to Speak, Colleges Commence to Scramble 1

Laura Segall for The Chronicle

Melissa Werner manages commencement ceremonies at Arizona State U., which graduated 17,000 students last year. "It's like a wedding for 10,000 people," she says. "Everyone's important that day"—but only briefly.

Barnard College scored the prize commencement catch this year, landing President Barack Obama to speak at its ceremony on May 14.

With the president, of course, comes drama: a kerfuffle over his bumping the originally scheduled speaker, the first female editor of The New York Times, and the bruised egos over at Mr. Obama's alma mater (to say nothing about bringing the Secret Service to a women's college after that business in Colombia).

Melissa Werner knows what sort