Bill Cosby Charms
Largest Commencement Crowd
Cosby offered UNC Pembroke graduates advice mixed with humor at the
largest commencement in University history on May 16.
It was a sun drenched
and sweltering 90 degrees for UNCP's first outdoor commencement, but
Cosby took the heat in stride. "I've always wondered why people
wear black in the sun, and it's 90 degrees out here," he said.
"The oxymoronic part of this is that these are the most educated
an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree and delivering a 30-minute
commencement address, Cosby shed his ceremonial robes, and, dressed
in his more familiar t-shirt and baseball cap, congratulated each of
the 520 graduates as they received their diplomas. The crowd of approximately
7,000 in UNCP's baseball stadium roared with approval as he clowned
with the graduates.
Amy Young, a 22-year-old
business graduate from Pinehurst, said she will remember this day forever.
"I stuck my hand out to shake (Cosby's hand), and he knocked it
away," Ms. Young told The Robesonian newspaper in Lumberton. "But
instead, he stuck out his arms and gave me a hug, a really big hug."
In presenting Cosby
for his honorary degree, Student Government President Katerina Vasolopoulis
referred to the Class of 1998 as the "Huxtable generation,"
named for the role he played in "The Cosby Show." Cigar in
hand and wearing a white t-shirt with the words "Hello Friend"
written on it, Cosby played to the crowd. They cheered every move including
his entrance to the field wearing a tasseled UNC Pembroke baseball hat.
When asked by reporters why he agreed to come to Pembroke, he said "The
chancellor (Joseph B. Oxendine) has my college transcript and has threatened
to expose my grades." Chancellor Oxendine, 68, was a new professor
in Temple University's physical education program and Cosby, 60, was
in his class. Dr. Oxendine introduced Cosby Saturday with his arm around
"Bill is the
type of student who stood out at Temple," Chancellor Oxendine said.
"He was an outstanding athlete and a little older than the average
student because of his tour of duty in the Navy. He was also something
of a character in class, although not a disruptive student."
Cosby was conferred
an honorary Doctor of Humane letters by the chancellor.
Rear Admiral Michael
L. Holmes, U.S. Navy and a 1972 UNCP graduate, was conferred an honorary
Doctor of Science degree. Rear Adm. Holmes has attained the highest
rank of any Lumbee Indian in the Armed Services. A career Navy avaitor,
he commands the Patrol Wings of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at
Pearl Harbor. Responding to a Cosby remark during the ceremony that
his own Navy career ended with the lowly rank of HMC III, Rear Adm.
Holmes promoted him on the spot, saying "Consider yourself a Senior
speech, Chancellor Oxendine summed up the graduation by calling it the
most memorable in UNCP history. "It is well known that most graduates
don't remember who spoke at their graduation, and nobody can remember
what they said," Chancellor Oxendine said. "That is not so
for Class of 1998."
For his part, Cosby
delivered serious advice to graduates while keeping them laughing.
I would like to tell you not to try to make changes in the world. Make
changes in yourself and that will make changes in the world. Number
two, set goals...set simple goals like pay off your student loan...like
get up in the morning when the bell rings.Number three, have a good
meal today, sort of like dead student walking."
Cosby issued warnings
about life outside college. "You are now a person being forced
out of the best job you'll ever have," he said. "There's no
spring break out here where we are. Christmas holiday is the day itself.
On top of that, you'll be starting at the bottom. Some of you will be
interns -- that's a French word for slave."
The comedian told
the graduates to rely on hard work and to have faith in the good training
they have received by their professors. "For those of you who go
on to graduate school, this time you're really going to do statistics...
and it's boring," he said. "But remember, an "A"
student anywhere is an "A" student anywhere. Don't worry about
those big name universities. They didn't get the juices flowing like
your professors here did. So many talk a lot, but can't do a damn thing.
Not this group."
Cosby also told
the graduates to respect the wisdom of their elders and offered some
words of wisdom from his own grandparents. "You've got to remember
who these old people are. They have a well that is very full and deep,"
these people may have only a third grade education, but they know a
lot more than you." Cosby said after a heated but unresolved debate
in a Temple University classroom over whether the glass is half full
or half empty, his grandmother Gertrude Cosby, who only had a junior
high school education, settled the matter saying, "It depends on
whether you're pouring or drinking."
Cosby's lengthy Sunday prayers, he said, "I didn't understand a
word after he said, let us pray.'" When, as an adult, Cosby
told his grandfather of this, "Grand dad just looked at me and
said, I wasn't talking to you.' "You've always been like
an island surrounded by these people. Through you, they live. Some of
them have not gotten through the sixth grade. They scrubbed, they washed,
they baked and they dug. They did everything for you."
a member of the UNCP Board of Trustees, presented Rear Adm. Holmes for
his honorary degree. The Grand Marshall was Dr. David K. Eliades, recipient
of the UNC Board of Governors Teaching Award. He is a professor in the
History Department and currently director of the American Studies program.
The Rev. Jerry Lowry, pastor of the Seaside United Methodist Chruch
of Sunset Beach, delivered the invocation.
Music was provided
by the UNCP Chamber Singers and the University Concert Band.
to University Newswire