College Awards Honorary Degree to Bill Cosby

Aug 15th, 2003 | By | Category: 15-1: Indigenizing Our Future, Tribal College News

HONORARY DOCTORATE. Sisseton Wahpeton College President William Harjo LoneFight, American Indian College Fund President Richard Williams share a laugh with Bill Cosby. Photo by Pam Wynia

Sisseton Wahpeton College presented comedian Bill Cosby with the college’s very first honorary degree last March, an Associate in General Studies. College President Dr. William Harjo LoneFight said, “We honor Dr. Cosby not for his work as an entertainer but for his work as an educator. He challenges everyone to achieve their fullest potential.”

Acknowledging the historical parallels between tribal colleges and the historically Black colleges and universities, Cosby expressed his gratitude, saying he would hang the diploma on the wall in his office. The diploma is made of leather, with the Dakota words inscribed by hand. It is decorated with the college logo and a medicine wheel made of traditional porcupine quills.

Richard Williams, president of the American Indian College Fund, presented Cosby with a Pendleton wool blanket and book on traditional American Indian culture. Cosby also received a star quilt from tribal and college officials, a traditional hand-carved horse statue from Francis Country, and gifts for his wife.

Cosby, who holds a doctoral degree in education from the University of Massachusetts, also met with local leaders and many tribal children on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. Cosby and his wife have made significant contributions to several Historically Black Colleges and established a scholarship program at Howard University that specifically targeted Native Americans.

The Sisseton Wahpeton Tribes established Sisseton Wahpeton College in 1979 in response to the lack of access to higher education in tribal communities. Similarly, many of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities were established to ensure that African Americans had access to a college education.

For more information, contact Pam Wynia, (605) 698-3966, or email her at

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