Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will deliver the commencement address to University of Richmond students in the schools of Arts & Sciences, Business and Leadership Studies on May 10 in the Robins Center.

Officials in the university's communications department confirmed the commencement speakers ahead of the official announcement at 5 p.m.

Kaine was elected to the governorship in 2005 and taught legal ethics for six years at Richmond. He took over in January as chairman of the Democratic National Committee after bursting onto the national political scene as a possible vice presidential running mate for President Barack Obama. Kaine endorsed Obama long before the nation's first black president had established himself as a serious contender.

Gordon Hickey, Kaine's spokesman, said the governor was not available for comment on the selection because he was traveling through the Middle East. Asked whether Kaine knew generally what he would tell Richmond graduates, Hickey said the governor usually didn't begin planning his commencement addresses until early May.

The university's decision to invite the governor -- a non-Richmond graduate -- signals a paramount reversal from a 2002 institutional policy that forbade outside commencement speakers. Previous guidelines had required the keynote speaker to be a Richmond alumnus, which prevented the university from offering invitations to the kinds of newsmakers that so often headline commencement ceremonies around the country.

The university established the rule after a commencement speech by Ed Rendell, then the Democratic National Committee chairman and now Pennsylvania governor, drew fire from students and parents for being overly political. John Douglass, now dean of the law school, criticized the change in 2002, saying the policy ran "counter to the notion of shooting as high as we can nationally."

But the selection is also evidence of the administration's broader efforts to fulfill the newly minted strategic plan, which has solidified community engagement as one of the school's five main principles, at least for the next five years. Kaine's ties to the city of Richmond run deep with his work as an attorney, city council member and mayor, in addition to his public service as lieutenant governor and governor of the Commonwealth.

"We are grateful that the governor is able to participate in commencement this year," Ann Lloyd Breeden, secretary to the Board of Trustees, wrote in an e-mail, noting also that college students are becoming increasingly interested in public service careers like Kaine's.

Breeden didn't further explain reasons behind the policy's change, beyond noting that Kaine's selection aligned with the strategic plan's goals. But she emphasized that alumni would nevertheless play prominent roles throughout during the weekend.

E. Claiborne Robins Jr. is slated to receive the university's President's Medal at the main commencement ceremony, a gesture in recognition of 40 years on the Board of Trustees and his family's financial contributions to the school.

"Commencement 2009 will again showcase for graduates becoming our newest alumni the excellent examples of leadership provided by other alumni," Breeden wrote.

The speaker for the School of Law's May 9 ceremonies will be Rick Klau, a '96 law grad and Google executive. That same day, Col. Kimberly S. Lettner, chief of the state Capitol Police, will address the graduating class in the School of Continuing Studies. Lettner is a former 21-year Virginia State Police captain and a 2006 grad of SCS.

This version of the story ADDS background, details and quotes from Breeden.

Contact staff writer Dan Petty at dan.petty@richmond.edu