By Andrew Schmertz
The new Saint Peter’s University Performing Arts Center debuted Friday with a big name star — Bill Cosby, who quickly endeared himself to the school’s boosters by talking up Jesuit education.
“When I hear the word Jesuit, it means something to me — the religion, the culture,” Cosby said. “Not only just strengthening one’s self academically, but to strengthen one’s self sociologically.”
Cosby, who is known for his work in education, is on national tour and was forced to delay his one-man show due to Hurricane Sandy. So his humor, following weeks of suffering, came as a welcome visitor to Jersey City.
The university bought the 100-year-old St. Aedan’s Church in 2011 with the plan to keep it a place of worship and to create a performing arts center. All the money raised during these shows will go to support the church. And university President Eugene Cornacchia says the center will play an important role in the community.
“If you look around this whole area, Hudson County doesn’t have a performing arts center,” Cornacchia said. “And so this is filling an important niche here in the community.”
City officials agree that the new performing arts center is also a boost for Jersey City and Hudson County.
“These smaller places and therefore they should be there, can have the Nutcracker there, can have opera, can have plays, can have a Bill Cosby. Jersey City is long overdue,” said Jersey City Deputy Mayor Billy Tayari.
Saint Peter’s is definitely on a growth plan. The college was officially upgraded to university status in the summer and it plans to open a brand new student center next spring.