A historic Baltimore Catholic school will name its community center in honor of Bill and Camille Cosby, the biggest donors in the school’s 184-year history and fierce champions of education, the school announced Friday.
St. Frances Academy, which serves 162 primarily low-income high school students, will host the comedian, his wife and their relatives in a ceremony at the St. Frances Community Center on April 20.
In addition to giving $2 million to St. Frances in 2005 to support its scholarship program, Camille Cosby also has a strong connection to the founders of the Baltimore school, having been educated by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the oldest order of African-American nuns in the country, for seven years.
“I can still hear their voices when I’m writing something, when I’m giving a speech,” she said in an interview, adding that the sisters were sticklers for grammar. “They just wanted us to go into the world prepared with knowledge — knowledge about ourselves and the different disciplines.”
Bill Cosby, who was raised Methodist and Baptist and attended public schools, said that the St. Frances center dedication “is my wife’s story.”
St. Frances was founded by Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, who established the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore more than 180 years ago. Camille Cosby attended the now-closed St. Cyprian Elementary-Middle School in Washington, also founded by the Oblate Sisters.
St. France’s community center opened 10 years ago, serving as a bridge to the community by offering voter registration, GED classes, after-school programs, and other community services and events. According to the center’s website, its mission is “uniting the school to the community, and the community to the school.”
Camille Cosby said her experience being educated by the Oblate Sisters was among the most formative of her life. She said she committed the Cosby name to the community center in honor of “an extraordinary order of women.”