Hollywood actress Phylicia Rashad, has been appointed dean of Howard University’s newly reestablished college of fine arts. The 72-year-old singer, actress and stage director is an alumnus of Howard University. She graduated with honours magna cum laude in 1970 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Ms Phylicia has previously taught students at New York University, Vassar College, Carnegie Mellon and Juilliard, also served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at Howard, counting her “This Is Us” co-star Susan Kelechi-Watson and the late Chadwick Boseman among her students.
Upon her appointment, Howard University conducted a nationwide search for alumni who can take the college forward. She will begin her new role on July 1 and will report to Provost Anthony K. Wutoh. According to the provost, “It is an honour to welcome one of Howard’s acclaimed daughters back home to Alma Mater. 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.”
The new dean disclosed that she was honoured and surprised by her appointment. “I never saw myself as a dean,” she says with a laugh. “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.”
“I started teaching at the invitation of Al Freeman Jr., who was a former chair of the department of theatre. He was a friend and we had also worked together in soap opera, and he was from the state of Texas as well,” she recalls. “At the time that I was teaching this masterclass at Howard, I was taping ‘Cosby’ in New York. I would fly down every Friday after tape day to conduct what was supposed to be an hour-long class, which ended up sometimes being three hours because students wouldn’t leave.”
Though Rashad has accepted a new position, that doesn’t mean she’s done acting just yet. “It is understood that I’m not a retired person,” she explains, when asked how the new role will affect her on-screen career. “It is understood that there were projects in the pipeline before this process began that I am committed to.”
Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said there is “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,” Frederick said. “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. 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.”
Among Rashad’s upcoming roles is “Creed III,” where she’s set to reprise her role as Mary Anne, the adoptive mother of Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, who will also direct the third instalment of the boxing film).