Actress Phylicia Rashad named dean at Howard University’s College of Fine Arts

WASHINGTON — Actress Phylicia Rashad is returning to her college alma mater as dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts, the school announced Wednesday.

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Rashad, 72, won a pair of Emmy Award nominations for her guest role on “This Is Us” in 2019 and 2020, and starred as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” from 1984 to 1994.

She will begin her role at Howard on July 1, CNN reported.

“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.

Rashad graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Howard University in 1970, The Washington Post reported.

The hiring of Rashad marks the return of Howard’s College of Fine Arts as an independent school within the university, the newspaper reported. It had been merged into the university’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1998, the Post reported.

Howard had 307 students enrolled in its fine arts program during the spring 2020 semester, according to the university. Alumni of the fine arts program includes actors Taraji P. Henson and the late Chadwick Boseman, as well as singers Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Richard Smallwood, the Post reported.

In a statement, Howard University Provost Anthony K. Wutoh said “Rashad’s appreciation for the arts and student success makes her perfect for the role.”

“It is an honor to welcome one of Howard’s acclaimed daughters back home to alma mater,” Wutoh said in the statement. “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.”

Rashad agreed to a three-year contract and will commute from her current home in New York to Washington while also traveling to Los Angeles for theatrical and television work, the Post reported.

“I will be a working artist,” she said.

Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick told the Post that Rashad will focus on teaching, modernizing the school’s curriculum, expanding enrollment among fine arts majors and designing a more modern, fine arts building.

“She was the best candidate,” Frederick told the newspaper. “One of the things I was interested in was potentially having someone who was a practitioner in the field of fine arts. I think it’s important for us to have people who are ready and able to stand up and guide the young people who are going to go into that field.”

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