By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Editor
Just two weeks after Phylicia Rashad was announced dean of Howard University’s newly reestablished College of Fine Arts, the institution declared that the program and building would be named in honor of another famous alumnus- the late Chadwick Boseman. The actor, who died in August 2020, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, and remained connected and committed to the university, even speaking at Howard University’s commencement ceremony in 2018.
“When Chadwick Boseman returned to campus in 2018 to serve as our commencement speaker, he called Howard a magical place. During his visit, I announced our plans to reestablish the College of Fine Arts and he was filled with ideas and plans to support the effort in a powerful way,” said Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick. “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 through the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts with the support of his wife and the Chadwick Boseman Foundation.”
Far before Boseman’s conversations with Frederick about reestablishing the College of Fine Arts, the actor was extremely passionate about the program surviving and thriving. In 1997, Boseman famously helped spearhead a student-led protest to prevent the College of Fine Arts from being absorbed into the College of Arts and Sciences. The reestablished College of Fine Arts and its new name is a full-circle moment for Boseman’s family.
“Chad fought to preserve the College of Fine Arts during his matriculation at Howard and remained dedicated to the fight throughout his career, and he would be overjoyed by this development. His time at Howard University helped shape both the man and the artist that he became, committed to truth, integrity, and a determination to transform the world through the power of storytelling,” the Boseman family said in a statement.
Not only will the College of Fine Arts get an updated name and a highly-lauded dean, but a brand-new facility as well.
“I’m also elated to have the support of The Walt Disney Company’s Executive Chairman Bob Iger, who has graciously volunteered to lead the fundraising effort to build a state-of-the art facility and endowment for the College,” Frederick said in a statement.
Iger took to Twitter to say he was “honored,” to be part of this project.
“Chadwick Boseman was a gifted, charismatic and kindhearted person, with a tireless commitment to helping others. I am honored to help [Howard University] raise money to build a new building in his name for their College of Fine Arts,” Iger Tweeted.
In an official statement the Walt Disney executive chairman considered the legacy that Boseman leaves artistically and for future Howard students.
“Chadwick Boseman was an extraordinarily gifted, charismatic and kind-hearted person whose incredible talent and generous spirit were clearly reflected in his iconic performances, including as King T’Challa in Black Panther and in his tireless commitment to helping others. Through his tremendous example he 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,” said Iger.
The Boseman family expressed their gratitude to Howard and Iger for their intentional work to honor the actor’s legacy.
“We would like to thank President Wayne A. I. Fredrick and the Howard University Board of Trustees for honoring our beloved Chad with the renaming of the reestablished College of Fine Arts. We would also like to thank Bob Iger for spearheading the fundraising efforts of this development,” the Boseman family said.
Boseman’s family and wife also expressed their extreme excitement around the College of Fine Arts being named after the late actor just two weeks after Rashad, his former instructor, was named dean.
“We are confident that under the dynamic leadership of his former professor and mentor the indomitable Phylicia Rashad that the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts will inspire artistic scholars for many generations,” the family said.
“I am extremely pleased that Howard University has chosen to honor my husband in this way and elated that Ms. Rashad has accepted the role as Dean,” said the actor’s wife, Simone Ledward-Boseman. “Chad was a very proud Bison — both Howard and Ms. Rashad played integral roles in his journey as an artist. The re-establishment of the College of Fine Arts brings this part of his story full-circle and ensures that his legacy will continue to inspire young storytellers for years to come.”
As Boseman’s professor and the new dean of the College of Fine Arts, Rashad also shared her pleasure in hearing that the program will be named after her former student.
“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,” said Rashad
Author, journalist and Boseman’s Howard classmate Ta-Nehisi Coates weighed in on the announcement that the College of Fine Arts would be named in honor of the late actor.
“Naming the College of Fine Arts after Chad, I think it’s perfect and it’s exactly what should be done. His theater work, his movie work, his acting and his writing, this was a continuation of that activism. The arts for him were always about something more,” Coates said.
The Between the World and Me and Black Panther comic writer, wrote for Howard’s publication, the Hilltop during the time Boseman led the student protest to stop the absorption of the College of Fine Arts.
“We’ve had a long list of artists come out of Howard, but, in our generation, nobody can better articulate, by example or by artistry, what we learned at Howard and what the university gave to us. So, I think it’s just fitting – it makes me teary-eyed thinking about it– naming the College after our brother who never stopped fighting for it,” Coates added.
Howard alumni took to social media to express their excitement about the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts.
“Howard Forever! Thank you [Howard University] for honoring our King,” one person wrote on Twitter, particularly referencing Boseman’s role as King T’Challa in Black Panther.
“Thank you [Howard University] this is better than an Oscar, there are many Oscar [winners] but only one Chadwick Boseman School of Fine Arts- a lasting tribute to an incredible alumnus,” another person tweeted.
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