Howard University Names Actor Phylicia Rashad As College Of Fine Arts Dean The award-winning film and stage star is a university alumna.
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Howard University Names Actor Phylicia Rashad As College Of Fine Arts Dean

Actor Phylicia Rashad will be the new dean of Howard's reestablished College of Fine Arts, the university announced Wednesday. Evan Agostini/AP Photo hide caption

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Evan Agostini/AP Photo

Legendary actor Phylicia Rashad, known for her role as Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, is the new dean of Howard University's College of Fine Arts.

The university announced the appointment Wednesday morning, saying they chose Rashad — a Howard alumna — after conducting a nationwide search. Rashad will assume the role on July 1.

"It is an honor to welcome one of Howard's acclaimed daughters back home to Alma Mater," said University Provost Anthony K. Wutoh in a statement released by the school. "In this full circle moment, Ms. Phylicia Rashad will take the training and skills that she honed as a student at Howard and exuded in an outstanding performing career, and she will share those pearls of wisdom with the next generation of students in the College of Fine Arts. Her passion for the arts and student success makes her a perfect fit for this role."

Beyond her time on The Cosby Show, Rashad's extensive resume includes NBC's This Is Us, the Pixar movie Soul, the Fox series Empire, stage shows including Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun and August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean, and a slew of directing projects.

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Her new appointment won't mark Rashad's first return to the university since she walked the campus as a student. She's served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at a number of universities, including Howard, New York University, Juilliard, and Carnegie Mellon. According to Variety, Howard alumni and actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer last year, was one of Rashad's students.

Howard University Professor Emeritus Vera Katz taught Rashad as a student in 1969, and directed a production of Moon On A Rainbow Shawl, in which Rashad was a lead.

"[She was] quick, sharp, witty," Katz says of her time teaching Rashad. "A wonderful laugh."

Katz says the star actor and director's appointment will help invigorate the College of Fine Arts, which was recently reestablished after it merged with the College of Arts and Sciences more than two decades ago.

"[She is] very capable and very intelligent, aside from being talented and beautiful which we know," Katz said. "Phylicia, I'm sure, will be able to uplift the face the of the College of Fine Arts, because she's in artistic circles and respected. She has a sensitivity to young people, and is very interested in encouraging them in their future. I don't know what else to say about her, I mean all of it is glowing. I hope the university will support her in her artistic endeavors that she'll bring to [Howard]."

Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick has similar praise for Rashad and what she'll bring to the school's arts community.

"Given Ms. Rashad's reputation as well as her capabilities and impressive list of accomplishments, she will undoubtedly empower the college to transcend even our incredibly high expectations," Frederick said in a university statement. "Under her leadership, Howard will continue to inspire and cultivate the artists and leaders who will shape our niche and national cultures for generations to come."

Rashad told Variety in an interview that she was honored, but surprised by the appointment.

"I never saw myself as a dean," she told Variety. "But then, I've never thought of myself as many things that I've been. "It's a privilege to be a part of re-establishing the College of Fine Arts, to engage with the administration, the faculty, the students, the alumni, as well as artists around the country. It's exciting to think about building towards a future with a College of Fine Arts and Howard University."

Like her resume, Rashad's list of accolades runs long. She serves on a plethora of boards, including the National Trust for Historic Preservation's African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, and has been presented with honorary doctorates from more than a dozen colleges, including Howard, Brown University, Spelman College, and Tuskegee University. She was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2016, and has won a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award, among others.

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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