UT Tyler Professor Inspired by Bill Cosby
February 10, 2006
Over 35 years ago, Dr. Larry Kraus, UT Tyler professor of education, was inspired by a conversation with comedian, actor and star Bill Cosby to prepare others for the future through education by first educating himself.
In November 1969, Larry Kraus was working as a full-time on-air personality at a radio station in Tulsa. The radio station sponsored Bill Cosby’s Tulsa concert and Kraus was assigned to escort Cosby to his engagements around town the day of the show.
“I took him on a short tour of the city and to play a game of racquetball with the mayor. We then grabbed a bite to eat and went back to the theatre a couple of hours before the show,” said Kraus. “It was sort of like a regular day because he is so easy to get along with. Bill Cosby is a genuinely funny person. He talked, I just sat and laughed.”
Kraus had previously been a junior journalism/radio/TV major at the University of Tulsa when he decided not to return.
“It just sort of happened. I decided not to go one semester, and the next semester it was easier not to go back,” said Kraus.
At the theatre, Kraus spent two hours with Cosby prior to the show.
“Cosby had recently announced he was taking time off from his career to earn an advanced degree, and I asked him why he was giving up his career to go back to school,” said Kraus. “I don’t remember his exact words, but I remember the change in his face. He told me we are here to prepare things for the future and the most important thing we can do to prepare for the future is to get our kids ready. The passion and eloquence that was there was amazing.”
Earlier in the day, Kraus had mentioned that at one time in his life he had considered teaching.
“Cosby locked in on this and told me that’s what I should do,” said Kraus. “Desegregation and lots of fighting were taking place in the schools at the time, and he told me if I really wanted to make a difference, I would teach at a minority school. And that is what I did.”
The next semester, January 1970, Kraus returned to college and graduated that December with a bachelor of science in education with a teaching area in journalism and English, and began teaching high school in an economically disadvantaged area of Tulsa.
“The school went from 60% white to 25% white during my four years there, and we had one riot where 36 armed policemen were on campus for three days,” said Kraus, who feels teaching at such a school was a direct result of his conversation with Cosby.
Kraus then earned his master’s degree in six months at Southern Methodist University, where he took 15 hours each in the summers of 1973 and 1974 and wrote his thesis. Kraus graduated in August 1974 with a masters of arts in secondary education.
But Kraus did not stop there. In May 1975, Kraus pursued his doctorate degree at The University of Texas and graduated in May 1977 with a Ph.D. in all-level curriculum theory.
Seven years after Kraus’ conversation with Cosby, he had earned three degrees and was teaching and training teachers at the undergraduate and graduate level at the University of New Orleans. Nine years later he transferred to UT Tyler, where he has continued to teach education classes for almost 20 years.
“A couple of times through the years I tried to write him to say thank you, but the only address I had was to his agent and for whatever reason I never heard from him,” said Kraus. “The truth is he didn’t do it for me, he showed me an opening that I hadn’t considered. I am sure he doesn’t remember me or the conversation, but I would like to say thank you for what he did, because I have never regretted going back to school.”
Cosby earned his master’s degree in education in 1972 and his doctorate of education in 1977 from the University of Massachusetts.