Several universities have rescinded honorary degrees in light of allegations
While several universities have voted to rescind honorary degrees awarded to Bill Cosby, and Spelman College has discontinued scholarships financed by Cosby, Florida A&M University is tight-lipped on its continued ties to the embattled comedian.
Cosby faces three charges following an indictment in December on three counts of aggravated indecent assault involving a case in Philadelphia with a woman formerly associated with Temple University. Dozens of other women have come forward with allegations of being sexually abused by Cosby, some dating back decades.
Cosby has not commented on these cases, but attorneys have denied the claims.
The Tallahassee Democrat reached out to FAMU throughout the week to find out about the status of a scholarship endowed by Cosby and his wife, and the status of an honorary doctorate bestowed upon Cosby.
A FAMU spokeswoman said the university hoped to have a response Friday, and later, said the university was still working on the request.
Cosby’s association extends back to at least the mid-1980s and he established a friendship with former President Frederick Humphries.
In 1988, Cosby invited Humphries to join a group of other higher education leaders at his apartment in New York. Cosby gave Humphries a check for $325,000 that was to be split between the School of Business and Industry and FAMU’s theater program.
In 1992, Cosby was awarded an honorary doctorate by Humphries during a convocation held in Bragg Stadium.
In 1997, Cosby and his wife, Camille, donated $100,000 to establish a scholarship in honor of tennis great Althea Gibson, who graduated from FAMU in 1953.
The donation was to be matched with $50,000 from the state for a total endowed scholarship fund of $150,000 for students majoring in physical education, recreation and health.
Gibson, who graduated in 1953 with a physical-education degree, was the first black to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
“Althea Gibson overcame great odds to become the best tennis player in the world,” Humphries said at the time. “Bill and Camille Cosby have become national treasures for their commitment to education, their courage and for dedicating their lives to the future of this nation by investing in our most precious resource, the leaders of tomorrow.”
Published reports indicate Cosby, once a popular speaker on college campuses, has been awarded more than 60 honorary degrees. Those choosing to rescind honorary doctorates include Drexel University, Drew, Brown, Fordham, Tufts, George Washington universities and Goucher College.
Spelman University, which received $20 million from Bill and Camille Cosby in the 1980s, voted to terminate an endowed professorship that was established with the donation. Berklee College of Music also ended a scholarship under Bill Cosby’s name.
Cosby’s last appearance at FAMU was in February 2007, when he spoke to education majors at the invitation of former College of Education Dean Scott Dantley.
In December 2003, Cosby was speaker for FAMU’s winter graduation that turned into an emotional appearance. Among those awarded degrees that day was his brother, Russell, who entered FAMU as a 56-year-old freshman in 1999. He had retired as a ground agent with Delta Air Lines and had a lifelong battle with dyslexia.
Cosby stopped and began wiping tears from his eyes at one point, explaining how the only other time he felt as proud was when his son Ennis graduated from Morehouse College, according to the Democrat report. Ennis Cosby, 27, was shot and killed on a Los Angeles freeway in 1997.
Cosby’s theme was the difference between now and “back in the day,” mostly how tolerances have slipped in a society whose mass media constantly spits out images of drugs, money and guns.
“Help me, Class of 2003, I’m worried about you,” he said.
He began by criticizing young people who refer to women using derogatory expressions, young men who father children out of wedlock and women who get pregnant as teens.
“Let it all out,” he said. “Don’t worry about who sees you hugging your mother . . .”
Cosby’s name surfaced locally in the mid-90s when it was reported that Autumn Jackson –the daughter of a woman Cosby admitted to having had a brief affair with – had ties to Tallahassee.
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