Bill Cosby headlines weekend of college graduations

From Greenville to Chapel Hill, a new crop of freshly minted college graduates and their families are celebrating their accomplishments.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Actor and comedian Bill Cosby brought some star power to the first of two weekends of college graduations in the Triangle.

Cosby delivered the keynote address at Shaw University's commencement ceremony Saturday morning at Dorton Arena at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

“I want to welcome you to the world of taxpayer,” Cosby told the graduates.

Cosby dressed in grey sweatpants, a T-shirt and Crocs sandals offered advice on landing a job during tough economic times.

“I ask you to watch the news, read the paper and every time you see somebody doing something wrong go down there and apply for their job,” he said.

Getting a job was on the minds of many graduates in the crowd. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the hiring climate for the class of 2010 is looking slightly better than last year. NACE reports that employers will hire 5.3 percent more new graduates this year than last.

Shaw graduate Kelli Jones said she has had a few job interviews, but no offer yet.

“I look at it as a challenge, as well as another piece of my character. So I'm nervous, but I'm ready to do it,” the mass communication major said.

The historically black college granted degrees to more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students. Cosby, who holds a doctorate in education, received an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

BET personality Jeff Johnson urged 175 graduates of St. Augustine's College to create a legacy like the class of 1960, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary.

"The graduating class of 1960 had a very different world to walk into," Johnson said. “They had a vision that was outside of what society said they could accomplish. ... Life is not about success, it’s about service.”

At Mount Olive College's graduation, Carolyn Fedoriw, 49, and her daughter Tracy McMullen, 26, got an early start on Mother's Day celebrations. They both received got diplomas in management and organization development from Mount Olive College.

"I am so thankful I was able to do this with my mom, sitting side-by-side at every class," McMullen said.

"I always believed that education is never-ending and something that can never be taken away," Fedoriw said.

Peace College handed out diplomas to 114 new graduates. They heard from former state Supreme Court Justice Willis Whichard.

"An imperfect world is growing impatient, indeed, rather desperate as it eagerly waits for the contributions you will make as a result of the education you have acquired in this place and that we celebrate today," Whichard said.

East Carolina University started the weekend's festivities with a keynote address from UNC System President Erskine Bowles Friday.

This Sunday, 460 Meredith College seniors will turn their tassels after hearing from alumna Gretchen Holt Witt, founder of the nonprofit Cookies for Kids' Cancer.

Graduations will be held next weekend for Duke University, North Carolina State University, North Carolina Central University and Methodist University.

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Renee Chou, Reporter
Greg Hutchinson, Photographer
Anne Johnson, Web Editor

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