Celebrity support wanes

Although many Temple graduates have moved on to be successful in their field of study, only a handful of the university’s more famous alumni have a direct association with the university. Bill Cosby, in particular,

Although many Temple graduates have moved on to be successful in their field of study, only a handful of the university’s more famous alumni have a direct association with the university.

Bill Cosby, in particular, has been an active alum, speaking at commencement and to the arriving undergraduate students for Cosby 101 as well as appearing at sporting events.

Cosby has recently distanced himself from the university by declining formal invitations sent from Temple to speak at last year’s commencement and Cosby 101, according to Stuart Sullivan, vice president for development and alumni affairs. Sullivan said the reason as to why Cosby turned down the invitations to these affairs is unknown.

Sullivan said that the university does not usually have other alumni speakers because the alumni association wanted to “make Bill Cosby a Temple tradition for giving addresses to the students.”

Aaron Tucker, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, said he attended a Cosby speech at his sister’s commencement in 2002.

“People were so excited about it,” Tucker said. “His speech was so good and it made the ceremony special for the graduates.”

In an e-mail, the chief communications officer for university relations, Mark Eyerly, said of Bill Cosby, “His participation in campus events … typically is determined by his schedule and availability relative to the unversity’s calendar.”

According to Raymond Betzner, the university’s director of communications, this was the only comment Eyerly could give concerning Cosby’s recent detachment and that it would be “best to go to the source” – meaning Cosby’s own public relations agencies.

Tucker also said it would be an advantage if the university got other famous alumni to come and make speeches.

“It would bring media attention to Temple, which is always a benefit,” Tucker said.

Cosby 101 was a part of the new student move-in festivities that ran in 2004 and 2005. The one-day “course” was optional for new students and their parents to partake in. President David Adamany also spoke at each Cosby 101 seminar.

“He should come back,” Fiorella Alvarez, a sophomore finance major, said about Cosby. “It probably had to do with the whole scandal he’s dealt with, but we see Bill Cosby as a figure for Temple. He attracts people to the school.”

In January 2004, Cosby was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a former official of Temple’s women’s basketball program at his Cheltenham mansion. The woman did not report the alleged incident until nearly a year after she claimed the incident took place.

Officials with the Special Events office and the General Alumni Association are still unsure if Cosby will be a speaker at this spring’s commencement, or when a commencement speaker will be announced.

Among the list of 240,000 alumni to date, some of the more well-known alumni include Philadelphia Mayor John Street, actor Bob Saget, NBA player Aaron McKie, NBC News President Steve Capus, musician Fred Mascherino of the band Taking Back Sunday, and both Daryl Hall and John Oates of the band Hall & Oates.

Chemistry sophomore Alisha Kabo admitted to not knowing of any other famous Temple alumni other than Bill Cosby.

“I think these people should be more active and maybe give more money to the school,” Kabo said.

According to associate director of the alumni offices, Deborah Cornell Naughton, in the last 10 years, the General Alumni Association has increased the programs that encourage alumni to get more involved from the moment they enter Temple. Naughton said that these programs are important to engage young alumni as well as to promote Temple pride on the student level.

“Alumni events and participation have drastically improved [over the last 10 years],” Naughton said. “We now have something called “Welcome Week” for students as soon as they move into their dorms to give a sense of community and build pride in Temple.”

Katrina Myers, administrator of the development office for the School of Communications and Theater, said that the university used to overlook their alumni but have recently begun to cultivate a more active alumni community.

Senior Aaron Hollander, a film and media arts student, said, “It would be nice for Bill Cosby to be at my graduation but if he’s not, I’m sure my life can continue.”

Hollander said he would be willing to return to his alma mater after graduating to give a speech or lecture, provided he thinks the students would profit from it and learn something new.

According to Sullivan, there are more than 12,000 active members of the Alumni Association.

“It is important to keep the alumni community growing,” Sullivan said.

Megan Kelsey can be reached at megan.kelsey@temple.edu.

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