'Cosby College' taught on Moravian campus
When he took his seat on the dais in Johnston Hall, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Bill Cosby wore a gray hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with "Moravian College" and sweatpants with "Temple," his alma mater, printed on the right pants leg.
After a nearly nonstop one and one-half hour talk, mostly in response to a handful of questions, the audience of 1,200 students, parents and members of the Moravian College community, were, by, degrees, symbolic graduates of another institution of higher learning: Cosby College.
The 76-year-old actor-comedian-writer-philanthropist delivered a wealth of wit, observations and tips from the college of life knowledge, starting when he was a disinterested student at Central High School to a Navy Hospital Corpsman at the United States Naval Hospital to a fledgling standup comedian.
"We were very lower middle class," the star of TV's "The Cosby Show" (1984 to 1992) and "I Spy" (1965 to 1968) told an audience seemingly eager to absorb his every word, facial expression and sound effect. The recent talk was presented by the Moravian College United Student Government.
"My sixth grade teacher said, 'William has a great way of not listening.'
"There are boys right now who think the way I thought and are wasting their education."
Cosby said his Navy service taught him the words that helped make him a man: "I'm not your mother."
"Those weeks and the following years in the Navy I grew because I had to stay with it," Cosby said.
Following his service, Cosby received a track scholarship to attend Temple University.
"I was placed in freshman remedial everything," he quipped.
Cosby gave one audience member "the Cosby stare" in response to one of her questions.
"How many in your classroom?" Cosby asked Maureen Leeson, of Bethlehem, a Liberty High School 11th- and 12th- grade physics teacher.
"Thirty," Leeson said.
"Too many," Cosby said.
When he started out in standup comedy, Cosby tried to sell jokes to comedians at the former Palumbo's, Philadelphia.
"'That's not funny,'" he said he was told. "So I went out to prove it was funny.
"I never tried to write anything funny. I wanted people to feel," Cosby said, a 1998 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor, the 2002 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 2009 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.