T EMPLE University's most recognizable face, Bill Cosby, resigned from the Board of Trustees yesterday after 32 years, amid swirling controversy over sexual-assault allegations from 20 women.

Cosby, 77, had been on the board at his beloved alma mater since 1982, and was a regular attendee at university events and a speaker at class commencements. Other schools associated with the television icon, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston's Berklee College of Music, also cut ties with Cosby recently as the assault allegations resurfaced in October and went viral.

As pressure mounted on Temple's board to make a decision of its own, Cosby resigned yesterday with a brief statement.

"I have always been proud of my association with Temple University. I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students," Cosby said. "As a result, I have tendered my resignation from the Temple University Board of Trustees."

Kerry Potter McCormick, a lawyer and a 2005 Temple graduate, had started an online petition to urge the university to end its relationship with Cosby.

"I'm happy that we have the right result today, even though Temple is one of the last universities to sever its ties," Potter McCormick said yesterday after learning of the resignation.

Patrick O'Connor, the chairman of Temple's Board of Trustees, said he fielded Cosby's call yesterday. O'Connor, vice chairman of the Center City law firm Cozen O'Connor, called the resignation a "noble" thing.

"Bill Cosby, a man who was an icon for Temple, when he saw that somehow the allegations against him were somehow harming Temple, he said, 'I wish to resign.' He tendered his resignation and I accepted it," O'Connor said. "It just shows that he cares about this institution. He didn't want it to be a distraction."

O'Connor, who once represented Cosby, said the board would have discussed Cosby's status at its next meeting Dec. 9.

Several board members could not be reached for comment, and others referred all comments to Temple. Board member Drew Katz, whose late father, former Daily News co-owner Lewis Katz, was a longtime friend of Cosby's, released a brief statement.

"Clearly, Mr. Cosby believed that the current media attention was a distraction to the school he loves so much, so he made the decision on his own to step down from the board of trustees," Katz said.

Temple released a brief statement accepting Cosby's resignation and thanking him "for his service to the university."

University spokesman Ray Betzner said Cosby earned a bachelor's degree from Temple in 1971. Betzner said the university has not released a tally on the amount of money Cosby donated to the university and also said Cosby had no future appearances scheduled at the school.

The board of trustees, Betzner said, can select a replacement to fill Cosby's unexpired term.

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