Weeks of Wooing First Lady Pay Off for a New University

After weeks of online and old school arm twisting by a coterie of seniors in the first full class to graduate from Merced, established in 2005, Michelle Obama has chosen the University of California as her sole stop on the college commencement circuit. Merced is the smallest, newest campus in state systems that include heavyweights like U.C.L.A. Yaasha Sabbaghian, a biology student, said the efforts included enlisting the help of Prof. Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard, a Merced native who is a friend of the Obama’s, as well as sending hundreds of handwritten letters and Valentine’s Day cards. Mr. Sabbaghian said he hoped Mrs. Obama would bring an inspirational message for the students in Merced, a central Valley city that has suffered from mass forecloses and high unemployment. University officials said they expected the May 16th speech to be a boon for the institution, whose 100 – acre campus was built on a former cattle ranch and initially had trouble attracting students. Enrollment grew to about 2,700 students this year.

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