College commencement season will bring a rock-star cast of speakers to the region's colleges and universities - including the president of the United States.
President Obama will address graduates at Rutgers New Brunswick, marking the first time in the university's 250-year history that a sitting president has appeared at commencement.
Fresh off winning a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize for the Broadway musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda will take his act to the University of Pennsylvania.
Gov. Wolf will headline two ceremonies, first at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster and then at Dickinson in Carlisle. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) will speak at William Paterson University.
Also scheduled are an investment banker, a national political commentator, an advocate for the homeless, a pharmacologist, a judge, a renowned sculptor, a Los Angeles pastor whose enterprise trains former gang members for honest work, and a 2012 Community College of Philadelphia grad who works with Michelle Obama in the White House.
The presidents of CBS, Vanguard, Independence Blue Cross, and PECO will appear, too, as will the head of the American Cancer Society and the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Tens of thousands of graduates across the region will be bombarded with advice, as the first ceremonies begin Friday and run into June.
At Penn, where the ceremony is May 16, students already are excited about hearing from Miranda, an actor, lyricist, and composer who won a Tony and Grammy for In the Heights. The news of his Pulitzer for Hamilton added to the buzz, said senior Jane Meyer, outgoing student body president.
"It's kind of the cherry on top," said Meyer, a political science major from Long Island. "It will be an honor to hear what he has to say."
Penn plans to broadcast the ceremony on a live stream beginning 9 a.m. the day of the ceremony at upenn.edu/commencement/webcast.html
Not just area graduates are excited. The speakers are, too.
"I'm this year's commencement speaker for the Penn State college of science!" tweeted John Urschel, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, who received bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics at Penn State. "Of all the honors I've received, this means the most."
While some commencements have been marked by controversy over speakers in recent years, there have been no major rumblings this year in the region.
Two years ago, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice backed out of Rutgers' commencement after students and professors complained about her role in the Iraq War.
This year, because of Obama's appearance, Rutgers is ticketing its New Brunswick commencement for the first time, allowing three tickets per graduating student. Some New Brunswick students have complained about Rutgers inviting its Newark and Camden graduating students to watch in the stands, saying guest seats should instead be given to the New Brunswick graduates' families only. Haverford College saw controversy in 2014 when students balked at hearing from Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley. They were concerned about his leadership during a 2011 incident in which university police used force on students protesting college costs.
"This year we've seen fewer commencement speakers have active campaigns against them," said Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "At the same time, I wonder if that is because schools are anticipating them and inviting less controversial speakers."
It also could be that students are busy protesting other issues, he said, such as fossil-fuel investments and buildings and programs named for leaders with legacies of racism.
One of the speakers at Haverford this year is Laura Magnani, a social activist who has written and spoken extensively about the failures of the prison system. She's looking forward to telling students about the need to push for change, no matter how long it takes.
"I think my role in this is to speak from the perspective of a lifelong social justice activist and to hopefully inspire students about that decision and what it really means to devote yourself to social justice," said Magnani, director of American Friends Service Committee's Bay Area Healing Justice Program in California.
The Rev. Gregory Boyle, who runs a gang intervention and community reentry program in Los Angeles, will address students at Rosemont College. He started Homeboy Industries 28 years ago after watching young gang members in his parish die warring with one another. Thousands of gang members have been trained at social enterprises set up by Homeboy - restaurants, a bakery, a silk-screen and embroidery factory.
A veteran commencement speaker, Boyle said he will talk to graduates about expanding their compassion.
"You want to call on a greater purpose, some larger love," said Boyle, a Jesuit priest. "So you make them laugh. You make them cry. You make them think, in 12 minutes or whatever the time is."
White House social secretary Deesha Dyer is looking forward to inspiring students at Community College of Philadelphia. She couldn't make her own commencement in 2012 because she already was working at the White House and traveling with President Obama. She completed her final courses online.
Dyer, who grew up in Philadelphia and Hershey and attended the Milton Hershey School, started at the White House in 2009 as an intern at age 31. In 2010, she was hired full time and moved through various roles to her current job as "special assistant to the president and White House social secretary."
On May 7, she will tell her story to graduates and pick up her associate's degree in front of her family and friends.
"Without Community College of Philadelphia, I would have never made it to the White House," she said in a statement. "I hope my journey from Community College of Philadelphia to the White House will inspire the graduates to continue to pursue their dreams and use their degrees to better their communities."