Michelle Obama gave a commencement speech for UC Merced’s first graduating class this past Saturday, a surprising honor that’s cost the university an estimated $700,000.

Some of the UC Merced’s corporate sponsors pitched in to alleviate the cost of organizing the event. According to the Sacramento Bee companies such as AT&T, the Educational Employees Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente collectively donated $80,000 to the university’s ceremony. Officials cite proximity to the end of the fiscal year as the reason for relatively small sum gathered from sponsors.

UC Merced students launched the “Dear Michelle” campaign, where they sent hundreds of valentines and handwritten letters to persuade the first lady to give the commencement speech to at the four-year-old university.

At the ceremony on Saturday, May 16, First Lady Michelle Obama explained why she decided to speak at UC Merced, one of the two schools she was going to visit. On June 3rd, Obama will speak at Mathematics Science Technology Public Charter, a high school in Washington D.C.

“Why did I choose the University of California Merced to deliver my first commencement speech as first lady?” Obama said. “Well, let me tell you something, the answer is simple. You inspired me. You touched me.”

The event has also diverted resources from other nearby campuses, including security staff from UC Santa Cruz. As a result, the Stevenson Rock ‘n Roll on the Knoll event was rescheduled and later canceled altogether due to difficulties finding an alternative date.

First Lady Michelle Obama Commencement Speech at U.C. Merced [YouTube]