On Wednesday, May 26, Howard University honors one of its most cherished alumni, Chadwick Boseman, by renaming the re-established College of Fine Arts after the late, great actor and humanitarian.
As ESSENCE reported earlier this month, the HU recently named actor and alumnus Phylicia Rashad as the dean of the fine arts school. Rashad has an interesting tie-in to Boseman, as she starred alongside Black Panther co-star Michael B. Jordan in 2015’s Creed franchise series.
The two, both proud Howard alumnus, will forever be connected with this move as Boseman made an indelible mark on students and the world after his 2018 commencement speech at the university. He passed away last August from a private battle against colon cancer.
“When you are deciding on next steps, next jobs, next careers, further education, you should rather find purpose than a job or a career,” he told the graduating students. “Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history.”
Boseman’s family released a statement via social media Wednesday, speaking on the distinguished honor, writing, “Chad, you exemplify Howard’s core values of excellence, leadership, service, and truth. There is no one more deserving of such an honor.” The family also thanked The Walt Disney Company, which distributed the Marvel Studios film Black Panther, and its chairman, Robert Iger, who will lead the school’s fundraising efforts to build a new facility and an endowment. Shortly after Boseman’s passing, a Change.org petition asked Howard’s president and board of trustees to name the school after the actor and garnered over 58,000 signatures.
After graduating from Howard, Boseman went across the pond to attend the British American Dramatic Academy at Oxford, and launched his career shortly after. He received a posthumous Oscar nomination this year for his role as Levee Green in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. His widow, Simone Ledward-Boseman, who was prominent on the awards circuit this past year, thanked the iconic HBCU as part of the news today.
“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,” she said today. “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.”