Following the recent appointment of beloved TV mom Phylicia Rashad as Howard University’s new Dean of Fine Arts, the acclaimed HBCU has furthered its connection to Hollywood, announcing that its College of Fine Arts will be renamed after the late actor Chadwick Boseman, one of the school’s most noteworthy alumni.
Boseman graduated from the school in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in directing. He then went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest rising stars with his starring roles in 2018’s Black Panther and 2020’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Leading Actor. Boseman passed away in August 2020 at the age of just 43 after a battle with colon cancer.
Keith L. Alexander of The Washington Post reported that Howard’s renaming of its College of Fine Arts unites the school with Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, “who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.”
According to Alexander, “in the days following his death, Howard students circulated a petition to have the fine arts college renamed for Boseman. Unbeknownst to the students, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said he, too, was thinking of a way to honor him.”
Prior to his illness, Boseman had been looking forward to returning to Howard in a greater capacity, agreeing to serve on the board of the fine arts college. Alexander reported that Boseman had also begun working to develop a Master’s Class series for students.
“We are very excited. This is the right thing to do,” Frederick said. “Chadwick’s love for Howard University was sincere, and although he did not live to see those plans through to fruition, it is my honor to ensure his legacy lives on.”
For his part, Iger said his efforts will focus on making sure he has the chance to help memorialize Boseman’s work, as well as joining the university’s efforts to help “diversify the entertainment industry.”
“Through his tremendous example, [Boseman] inspired millions to overcome adversity, dream big and reach beyond the status quo, and this college named in his honor at his beloved Howard University will provide opportunities for future generations of artists to follow in his footsteps and pursue their dreams,” Iger said in a statement.
Rashad, a Howard alumna herself and former mentor of Boseman, reiterated Iger’s sentiment, saying “unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence, Chadwick was possessed with a passion for inquiry and a determination to tell stories, through acting, writing and directing, that revealed the beauty and complexity of our human spirit.”
“In 1997, when Boseman was a student, he led a protest of the administration at the time when officials decided to consolidate the College of Fine Arts into the larger College of Arts & Sciences,” Alexander reported. “In 2018, Boseman received an honorary doctorate from Howard and was the commencement speaker, inspiring graduates and their families with stories about his student days. It was then when Frederick announced the fine arts college would return to its independent status.”