More than nine thousand graduates from the Class of 2013 took the last step of their college years at Temple’s 126th commencement ceremony on May 16. Highlighted by Trustee Patrick O’Connor and famous Temple alum Bill Cosby, the speakers offered their praise, thanks and words of encouragement to the graduating class.
Cosby kept the audience laughing throughout his speech, with stories of his bumbling road to get into the university with nothing but a track scholarship and a sub-par SAT score. He addressed the concerns of the road ahead, and told graduates to get out and use their degrees.
“Get a job,” Cosby said again and again. “For God’s sake, get a job. You may not know what you’re going to become, but when something hits you, do it.”
Patrick O’Connor, the commencement speaker, received an honorary degree for his work with the Board of Trustees. Conferring the degree, President Neil Theobald said among O’Connor’s accomplishments, “he positioned Temple for leadership in reducing student loan debt.”
Two others also received honorary degrees: the late Professor Frank Albert Cotton and India’s Minister of Human Resources Development, Pallam Raju. Raju, who received an MBA from Temple in 1985, was recognized for his contributions to the Indian Parliament and his efforts to eliminate the gender gap in Indian school enrollment.
In his commencement speech, O’Connor thanked the graduates, the faculty and the Board of Trustees for their efforts in making Temple a better place. He left the graduates with words of encouragement for the journey ahead.
“It no longer matters where you came from, how much money your family has, what type of house you lived in. You are on equal ground with everyone in America today,” O’Connor said.
Student commencement speaker Joseph Stony talked about the fight he had to go through to claim that equal ground and earn his degree.
“I grew up in Northeast Philly,” Stony said. “My sole objective was to get up and out of the city.”
Stony talked about the rigors of enlisting in the U.S. Navy and chasing his dream in the flight program, a dream he had to abandon after his diagnosis with cancer. Stony later recovered and came back to Philadelphia to pursue a college degree.
“It isn’t how we fall down along the way but how we get back up that is important,” Stony said. “My team, my shipmates, my fellow graduates, enjoy this day.”
There was no shortage of joy among Temple’s Class of 2013. Before the ceremony began, many graduates could not contain their happiness, bursting into cheers in the backstage area. Some graduates displayed their joy and gratitude with messages of “Thank you Mom and Dad” written atop their caps.
O’Connor emphasized that this day was all about gratitude and being thankful, and there was no shortage of praise for the parents, loved ones and the graduates themselves as the speakers gave them their thanks.
Modupe Omotosho, a graduate from the School of Pharmacy, said she has enjoyed her time at Temple.
“When I came here from New York, I didn’t like it at first,” Omotosho said. “But I enjoyed my professors. They had a good, opened up policy. Now I kind of like the city and I’m thinking about staying here.”
After degrees were conferred, President Theobald told the graduates the time had come to leave Temple and continue on their journeys, and the ceremony concluded with a round of applause for the graduates and their loved ones.
Joe Gilbride can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.