120th Commencement Exercises

Cosby, Fr. Monan Stress Gratitude

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Entertainer Bill Cosby presented an irreverent view of graduation, and offered some serious advice, to the Class of 1996 at Monday's 120th Commencement Exercises in Alumni Stadium - the 24th and final Commencement under the administration of University President J. Donald Monan, SJ.

Humid, summer-like weather marked the event, which saw some 3,300 degrees conferred out of the approximately 4,200 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees awarded by the University during the 1995-96 academic year. Alumni from the classes of 1946 and 1971 also marked their golden and silver jubilees, respectively.

Cosby, recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree, told graduates how they could heed the traditional commencement entreaty to "make a difference." One way, he said, is to show gratitude to those faculty who were there to help them do their best during their college years.

"That professor cares," Cosby said. "That's why they teach. Their salaries don't draw them to anything, or else they'd be in show business. They're here to give and their life is so beautiful when they see those students who give back."

Graduates should write their professors, he said, and tell them what they experienced, good or bad, in their classroom. "Tell them whatever you want to tell them, but just make sure that they know."

Bill Cosby delivers his remarks during Monday's Commencement Exercises in Alumni Stadium. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

Fr. Monan, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, also spoke about gratitude in his remarks to the graduates, calling it "one of the most energizing sentiments in life" and one which "compels us to give in return."

Fr. Monan was the subject of several tributes during the exercises, including one from Cardinal Bernard Law, archbishop of Boston. Trustee Chairman Geoffrey T. Boisi announced that the University will establish three academic chairs in Fr. Monan's name and the Humanities Building planned as part of the proposed Middle Campus Project would be known as J. Donald Monan Hall. The quadrangle adjacent to the proposed building also would bear Fr. Monan's name, Boisi said.

Fr. Monan, flanked by Bill Cosby and Cardinal Bernard Law, acknowledges the ovation after delivering the Presidential Address at Commencement. (Photo by Gary Gilbert)
"We intend to make clear that those who come after us will know the name of J. Donald Monan of the Society of Jesus and associate it with Boston College's greatest strengths," Boisi said.

Cosby, greeted enthusiastically by the crowd when he entered Alumni Stadium during the processional, brought his own inimitable style to Commencement, sporting a Boston College baseball cap adorned with a tassel and giving congratulatory hugs to student degree representatives.

In his brief remarks - "It's hot and we got things to do," he quipped - Cosby joked about graduates returning home to decide on their future, something which they had failed to do during four years of college. He recalled his daughter's struggle to begin her artistic career, until "I grabbed her one day and said, 'Paint!'

"She's now showing in galleries," Cosby said, "and I go in and buy all of the paintings. She's successful, because what are fathers for - and what are mothers for, but to tell the father to go down to the gallery and buy the paintings?"

Conte Forum was nearly filled for Sunday's baccalaureate Mass. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
But Cosby, who concluded with a reading of the Rudyard Kipling poem "If," said he had an additional suggestion for how graduates could make a difference.

"I want you to pay back your student loan," he said. "It is quite important, because I think you understand how difficult it was for you to get one and the reason for that is the person who didn't pay theirs came before you. Now, how long are you going to allow this to continue before they say, 'There's no more student loans?'

"Send them $10, $15, $20, send them something," Cosby said, "so that people coming behind you will know that you made a difference."

Earlier, Fr. Monan said in his address that as an honorary degree recipient he considered himself a member of the Class of 1996, and thus shared many of the same emotions as the graduates assembled before him. As the graduates move on through life, he said, they would find the University's "sense of community" their foremost asset from their years at Boston College.

Fr. Monan also spoke on the value of the Catholic intellectual tradition - which he said views "the power of the great scholarly disciplines, and of faith, as mutually illuminating" - and its place at Boston College.

"It is the maturing of your personality around a set of values, and of more thoroughly understood beliefs," he said, "that will give direction and motive power, and ultimately satisfaction to the manner in which you use your gifts of intelligence and training."

Closing his remarks, Fr. Monan - who will become University chancellor after he steps down July 31 - said he felt gratified to have presided at Commencement for nearly two-and-a-half decades. Addressing his "classmates," he said that although it had taken him 24 years and lengthy examinations in "finance, political science, occasionally the fine art of persuasion, my degree from Boston College will always be the one I appreciate the most."

The Carroll Graduate School of Management's Class of 1996 gathered on Bapst Lawn after the main Commencement ceremony.
Boston College also presented honorary Doctor of Laws degrees to University of Massachusetts President William M. Bulger '58, JD '61 and pediatrician and author T. Berry Brazelton, MD; and an honorary Doctor of Public Administration degree to United Way executive Marian L. Heard.

In addition, Fr. Monan presented the first Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Award for Distinguished Citizenship to Michael Mansfield, the former United States Senate majority leader and ambassador to Japan.

Prior to the O'Neill Award, deans from each of the schools presented degree candidates to Fr. Monan, who formally pronounced them graduates of Boston College.

Representatives from each school received a representative degree for their fellow graduates, who were later presented with their individual diplomas at sites around campus.

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