'An Evening With Bill Cosby' celebrates Lambuth University
The Lawrence family studies a painting of Bill Cosby on display at the Civic Center in Jackson, TN, where Cosby performed April 5. The show was a benefit for Lambuth University.
When Bill Cosby strolled on stage at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, TN Tuesday night, April 5, he was not wearing his signature colorful sweater for which he was known on his 1980s television show, The Cosby Show.
The 73-year-old comedian wore a Lambuth University blue athletic jacket, a reminder to the audience that the evening’s entertainment was also about raising money for the financially-troubled, Methodist school located in Jackson.
A sellout crowd of more than 2,000 filled the balcony and floor-level tables decorated with Lambuth memorabilia to hear Cosby talk for nearly an hour-and-a-half about adolescence, marriage, parenting, generational perspectives and more.
Now a grandparent, Cosby continues to add to his arsenal of stories about the funny things children say and do.
Cosby sat throughout most of the performance in a chair at center stage. Bottled water, his only prop, was on a nearby small table.
Exaggerated facial expressions punctuated Cosby’s storytelling routine and added to the laughs.
After musical entertainment by Lambuth students and a testimony-filled video produced by Lambuth about the 168-year-old school, Cosby was introduced by Ron Dickerson, Lambuth’s head football coach and honorary chair of the event with his wife Jeannie.
Dickerson and Cosby are old friends.
The evening opened with messages from Lambuth representatives about “filling the jars,” a reference to Jesus’ first miracle when he turned water into wine.
Guests for “An Evening with Bill Cosby” were asked to fill strategically-placed empty jars with financial gifts for Lambuth.
Event literature explained, “At Lambuth, we are still filling the jars. Somehow we think this wedding banquet deserves to go on. We know something else could fill our place. But it could never be Lambuth.”
Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris, who sat at a table with Lambuth President Bill Seymour, expressed excitement about the evening as it began, saying he thinks Bill Cosby is an excellent entertainment choice because his humor appeals to so many people.
The printed program said Cosby’s comedy “transcends age, gender and cultural barriers.”
Gene Smith of Jackson, who served on the event steering committee that worked on the event for almost six months, said, “I will always remember (this) as one of the memorable moments of my association with Lambuth since our first child came to Lambuth in 1975 and then two more to follow her.
“It made me so happy to see the beautiful students perform and the great witness they gave to how great a University Lambuth is. Truly it was a good night for (my wife) Joyce and me. We love Lambuth.”
Melissa Bryan Dennison of Jackson, who attended Lambuth from 1975 to 1977, said after the event was over, "It was a magnificent night with friends, fellow alums and Jackson supporters to see such a highly respected actor who is also a great comedian. I enjoyed seeing so many friends and I don't know when I have laughed so much."
Commenting on the event a day later, Seymour said, “Everyone connected with Lambuth University is so proud about the Bill Cosby event. While Mr. Cosby was the headliner, the evening was a great celebration of Lambuth University.”
Seymour said the show reminded the entire community “about the rich history of (Lambuth), the quality education it continues to provide and its importance to Jackson and West Tennessee.”
Referring to the video that was shown before Cosby came on stage, Seymour said, “Even though the event is over we continue to ‘fill the jars.’ We hope that all who see the (Lambuth) video will be inspired by the passion, dedication and faithfulness of our people. We believe in miracles.”
---By Lane Gardner Camp, Director of Communications, Memphis Conference, The United Methodist Church