Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, founders and co-chairs of the Gates Foundation, have been selected to be the 2014 commencement speakers at Stanford University on June 15, the university announced Monday.

"Bill and Melinda Gates have taken on some of the planet's toughest challenges. This boldness is an ethos that we also embody at Stanford, and one we seek to instill in our graduates," Stanford President John Hennessy said in a news release.

The Gates Foundation, based in Seattle, is the world's largest private foundation. It is committed to easing poverty, hunger and disease that prevent millions of people from realizing their full potential.

Its first projects, like bringing the Internet to public libraries, sprang from the couples' Microsoft experience. But in the 1990s, it expanded its focus. Specifically, Bill Gates aspires to rid the world of polio, funding immunizations that have brought the disease to the point of eradication. Melinda Gates champions the importance of family planning, with the goal of delivering contraceptives to 120 million women in developing countries within the next six years.

They are the latest in Stanford commencement's long line of stars in fields such as politics, business, entertainment and law. In the past decade, speakers have included Apple CEO Steve Jobs, media personality Oprah Winfrey, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The baccalaureate ceremony will be held on the Main Quad and the Class Day lecture will be held in Maples Pavilion, both on June 14. Commencement will be held in the Stanford Stadium on June 15.

Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098.