Phylicia Rashad, Actress and Iconic TV Mom, Named Dean of Fine Arts at Howard University

Phylicia Rashad spent almost a decade lighting up our screens as lovable mom Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show — and now the Tony Award-winning actress has turned her considerable talents to academia with a recent appointment as Dean of Fine Arts at Howard University, one of the nation’s leading HBCUs.

CNN’s Lisa Respers France reported that Howard University appointed dean of its recently reestablished College of Fine Arts during an announcement on Wednesday, May 12. Rashad currently has a role on the Emmy Award-winning hit series This is Us on NBC (No. 6 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021). She will begin her role as Dean on July 1 and report to the university’s Provost, Anthony K. Wutoh.

“It is a privilege to serve in this capacity and to work with the Howard University administration, faculty and students in reestablishing the College of Fine Arts,” Rashad said in a statement following her appointment.

According to CNN, “the esteemed actress graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Howard University in 1970.”

From there, she went on to star on NBC’s The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992. Although she kept acting after the series ended, Rashad also became a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member, conducting master’s-level classes at schools including Howard, New York University, Vassar College, Carnegie Mellon and The Black Arts Institute of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

“She was the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theater at Fordham University,” Respers France reported. “After Chadwick Boseman’s death last year following a battle with colon cancer, Rashad also revealed that Boseman had been one of her students while she taught at Howard, and she was proud to have had the chance to mentor the talented actor.”

After appointing Rashad, University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said, “I can think of no individual better suited to take on this role than Ms. Phylicia Rashad. As we reintroduce our campus community and the world at large to Howard’s College of Fine Arts, the dean will play an instrumental role in ensuring an auspicious beginning for this reestablished institution.”

“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. “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.”


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