Commencement 1997:
Mr. Cosby for the Commencement, Mme. Veil for the Baccalaureate

Comedian Bill Cosby will deliver the Commencement address at Penn's 241st Commencement on Monday, May 19, after the traditional procession through campus to Franklin Field, where ceremonies start at 9:30 a.m.

On Sunday, May 18, Mme. Simone Veil, the revered French political leader known as la première dame de l'Europe, will deliver the Baccalaureate address, the last such ceremony for Penn graduating seniors to be held in Irvine Auditorium in its present configuration. Mme. Veil, a Holocaust survivor who came back from Bergen-Belsen to devote herself to human rights in France and beyond, is also to receive an honorary degree in Monday's Commencement. "This is a woman of enormous courage and integrity, and her life has been devoted and dedicated to the welfare of others," said President Judith Rodin in announcing the selection.

There are eight honorary degree recipients altogether in 1997:

Their biographical sketches appear in this issue.

Bill Cosby already holds the Penn honorary degree Doctor of Laws (as well as his own earned doctorate). The Philadelphia-born athlete, actor, author and beloved comedian was cited by Penn in 1990 for "...[your] art, [your] principles, and [your] exampleand a face that has launched at least a thousand quips." He attended Temple University on an athletic scholarship and later earned a master's degree (1972) and an Ed.D. (1977) in education from the University of Massachusetts. His doctoral thesis was entitled The Integration of Visual Media via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids into the Elementary Schools Culminating as a Teacher Aid to Achieve Increased Learning.

He also is a best-selling author. His book, Fatherhood (Doubleday/Dolphin 1986), became the fastest-selling hardcover book of all time, with more than 2.6 million hard-cover copies in print, and was on the New York Times Book Review Best-Sellers List for 54 weeks. It also sold more than 1.5 million paperbacks. His Time Flies and Love and Marriage from Doubleday, and Childhood, from Putnam, have had similar success.

Bill Cosby began his career as a stand-up comic in nightclubs, made his television series debut in 1965, and broke television's racial barrier in the television series, "I Spy," in which he starred with Robert Culp. "The Cosby Show" (1984-92) is widely regarded as one of television's most influential series, about which Life magazine wrote: "Nobody actually says this family represents the whole human family, but the delicious ordinariness of its pleasures and tribulations has given millions a fresh, laughter-splashed perspective on their own domestic lives." He is believed to be the best-selling comedian of all time on records, with 21 albums, and has won five Grammy Awards for the "Best Comedy Album."

President Rodin said "the fabled wit and wisdom that have endeared Bill Cosby to millions of Americansand for which he has been recognized with countless awards and honorsoffer a marvelous way for us to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates as they prepare to take their places in society," adding that Mr. Cosby and his wife, Camille, have been "extraordinarily generous" in support of education, most notably to predominantly black colleges, and to social service and civil rights organizations. The couple also made a major donation to the Penn Relays in celebration of Penn's 250th Anniversary in 1990.


Volume 43 Number 31
April 22, 1997

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