Temple alumnus and Board of Trustees member Bill Cosby has announced he will be the commencement speaker at High Point University’s 2007 graduation ceremony next spring.
High Point, located in High Point, N.C., has confirmed Cosby as a speaker at their May 5, 2007 ceremony for graduating students. High Point spokesperson Chris Dudley said Cosby’s invitation was a university-wide decision that follows a growing commencement traditionthere.
“Our new president, President Nido Qubein, is committed to bringing national and international speakers to our commencement ceremony,” Dudley said. “We solicited input from the faculty and staff and chose Mr. Cosby based on that input.”
High Point has featured several prominent figures in its recent commencement ceremonies, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Dudley said the decision to invite Cosby worked well in conjunction with previous speakers.
“He seemed to be a good fit for us,” Dudley said. “We’ve had national and international political figures in the past. It seemed fitting to have not only an entertainer, but a great educator as well this year.”
Temple’s commencement ceremony planning is still in very early stages, Chief Commuications Officer Mark Eyerly said the university has not extended any invitations to speakers, including Cosby. This is partially because new university President Ann Weaver Hart may want to speak at the ceremony.
“We have not extended any invitations or planned a detailed program,” Eyerly said. “We have a new president and are talking to her about what she might envision.”
Eyerly said he does not predict any major changes and said that the ceremony will keep the same focus it has had in previous years.
“Commencement will focus on the students and most likely contain Temple’s traditions of saluting the graduates and using a student speaker. Beyond that we haven’t begun any detailed planning,” he said.
While Cosby’s involvement in this spring’s commencement ceremony is unclear, many students have noticed that “Cosby 101,” a welcoming ceremony offered to freshman and new students, has not been held since 2004. The program was replaced this year by a more formal convocation ceremony.
Eyerly said that the addition of this ceremony is largely due to the changes happening on campus.
“Holding a convocation at Temple makes sense because of the increased residential nature of the college,” Eyerly said. “It helps create a community and gives the students a shared experience. It makes a ceremonial beginning to students’ higher education.”
Brian Sassano, a senior at Temple, said that he was glad he got to attend “Cosby 101” instead of the convocation ceremony.
“I’d prefer “Cosby 101.” It’s an entertaining and fun way to start the year,” Sassano said. “If they are just going for an appearance with the new ceremony, I don’t like that. They should focus on the classes in order to come off as a more prestigious school.”
Other students are upset by Cosby’s agreement to speak at another school’s commencement.
“His loyalties lie here. I am offended as a future Temple alumnus,” Tom Rader, a senior, said.
Dudley noted that as an individual, Cosby is everything High Point is looking for in a commencement speaker and predicts that he will draw as much respect as past speakers, especially
from the students.
“It would not be an exaggeration to call him an icon. Whether it’s the ‘Cosby Show,’ his stand-up, his books, or the overall good he has done in the world, he is the whole package. I think that students might be more excited about someone like Bill Cosby than some of our past speakers,” Dudley said.
Dudley was dismissive of recent controversies surrounding Cosby, citing his lifelong legacy over recent headlines.
“Like everyone else we’ve heard about the controversies, but we still think that he is an unbelievable man who has done unbelievable things and will be able to deliver a great message to faculty, students, and staff,” he said.
Dudley said he does not expect an overly political or controversial message from Cosby at the commencement.
“We ask all of our speakers to stay away from political matters and focus more on the students. Most speakers talk about the life and dreams of the students and their ability to accomplish great things. Mr. Cosby has been doing this for a long time and we are sure he will have a great message,” Dudley said.
According to Eyerly, Cosby’s connection with Temple is largely based on his calendar.
“Much of Mr. Cosby’s involvement depends on his schedule,” Eyerly said. “He is always welcome to join us at Temple.”
Alex Irwin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.