The Dropout with a Doctorate


Bill Cosby's personal experience serves as an example to anyone who feels it's too late to get an education.

This blog is a friendly reminder that some students are just…well, different. They’ll need to be motivated in a different way than most, and may just bloom a bit later.

A class clown who devoted more time to sports than studies, Bill Cosby flunked the 10th grade and dropped out of high school to join the Navy. While rehabbing injured Korean War servicemen as a physical therapist, Cosby noticed the ethic of personal growth in his fellow navy men. In addition to fulfilling their duties as naval officers, many of his peers also took high school and college courses via correspondence.

As Cosby watched his friends struggle with schoolwork that he had no trouble comprehending, he came to two realizations. First, he had above-average intelligence. Second, he was committing a “mental sin” by wasting his intellectual talent. Resolved to make use of his smarts, Cosby enrolled in a distance-learning high school program and gained his diploma.

With a high school degree in hand, Bill Cosby hoped to go to college after his stint with the navy ended. His application impressed Temple University, and he gained admittance. Thanks to his exceptional athleticism (Cosby could run a 10.2 second, 100-yard dash), he was awarded a track and field scholarship to cover his tuition.

While attending college, he worked as a bartender who started doing standup (and sit down) comedy behind a bar, just to keep things light. Finding considerable success, he launched his career, with comedy taking him away from school.

His big break came through the TV show I Spy. This put him in the limelight as a personality, actor and comedian on a weekly basis.

As a television actor, he once more noticed crew members working, and then doing correspondences courses and night classes to finish their degree. Inspired again, he returned to school and got his masters degree and doctorate at the University of Massachusetts in the 70s. He’s been an advocate of education ever since.

You and I both believe in education—but sometimes, the best classroom comes from years spent growing up, learning what questions to ask and what’s really important. This cultivates genuine incentive. Eventually, the student engages again, and this time, he’s ready to own his education. This is exactly what happened to Bill Cosby.

Later, as an actor-producer on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby began promoting healthy families and education via his comedy and acting skills. This has emerged as a personal mission.

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