Phylicia Rashad, dean of Howard university

Phylicia Rashad Speaks On Life After Howard As Dean Prepares To Step Down

The 75-year-old announced that she would step down at the end of this school year.

Actress Phylicia Rashad graduates from Howard University, but this time in a different capacity. The former student is now stepping down as dean of the College of Fine Arts and looks toward her future.

She spoke of her decision to take on the role as the newly established college named after fellow alum and actor Chadwick Boseman. She became dean in May 2021, adding to her esteemed resume following her most notable role as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show.” The 75-year-old announced her intention to step down in August 2023.

During an interview with WUSA9, Rashad reminisced on her time at the University as a student and dean. She studied at the Ira Aldridge Theater while pursuing a degree in fine arts at the HBCU.

“This is the space in which I performed and rehearsed,” explained Rashad of the venue. “This is the space in which I received acknowledgment.”

Her appointment to dean was inspired by Boseman, her mentee, who, before his death, sought to make the Fine Arts program an official college at the school. The late “Black Panther” actor asked Rashad to take on this new role. Already well-versed in academia, Rashad taught master classes at Howard and other schools such as NYU. Furthermore, she was a university trustee at her alma mater.

“He said, yes, it’s going to be coming back,” she shared of Boseman’s request.” It’s going to be reestablished, and I think you should be the dean. I looked at him and laughed; I did. I said, please. ‘Chile, please.’”

It wasn’t until after Boseman died that Rashad became fully invested in the position, helping fulfill his goal and legacy. As dean, she worked to rebuild the college’s infrastructure and reemphasized the importance of fine arts in academia.

She added, “One of the things that I hoped to do was to create a narrative, a narrative that would expand understanding of what the arts are, their value to humanity and their academic value to this institution.”

As for the college’s honor of Boseman, Rashad wanted to remember him as a scholar in the craft, and more than just a role he portrayed. The same feeling extends to someone considered as “America’s mom,” too.

“His name is not here because he was ‘Black Panther,’ his name is here because he was a scholar,” she explained. “As a student, he wanted to know everything there was to know about theater, about art, about music.”

Both became household names in Black Hollywood and beyond for what they represented in media. However, their legacy forever connects to Howard through their leadership and upliftment of students in the arts.

For Rashad, from Broadway to the silver screen, her future remains uncertain. However, like a true artist, Rashad finds comfort in the unknown because the possibilities are limitless.

“I don’t always know what’s next,” says Rashad. “And I like that because it’s what I don’t know that interests me most.”

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