Phylicia Rashad, accomplished actress and Howard University alum, is set to conclude her role as the dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts by the close of the 2023-24 academic year.
Rashad, known for her versatile performances in television, stage, and film, including her iconic portrayal of Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” assumed the position of dean in 2021. Throughout her tenure, she played a pivotal role in revitalizing the prominence of the fine arts college. Her efforts included attracting renowned scholars, artists, and creatives to the institution.
Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick expressed his appreciation for Rashad’s leadership in reestablishing the College of Fine Arts as an autonomous entity within the university. He highlighted her success in bringing in distinguished individuals who contribute as department chairs, mentors, teachers, and role models for the students.
While Rashad’s impending departure marks the conclusion of her three-year contract, she declined to comment on the matter through a university spokesperson.
In a previous interview, Rashad shared her aspirations for the fine arts college. She emphasized the importance of modernizing the program while retaining its foundational knowledge. She also expressed her desire to empower faculty to create and produce, fostering a robust program that engages students in the fine arts disciplines, ultimately graduating artist-scholars.
Rashad, an accomplished theater actor who graduated magna cum laude from Howard in 1970, has a strong familial connection to the university. Her sister, Debbie Allen, and their father, Andrew Arthur Allen, are also Howard graduates. Rashad’s appointment as dean marked a significant turning point, leading to the college regaining its status as an autonomous school. The fine arts college was previously merged with the College of Arts and Sciences in 1998 due to financial considerations, a decision that stirred discontent within the arts community.
During her deanship, Rashad facilitated the establishment of initiatives like the Chadwick A. Boseman Memorial Scholarship program, supported by a $5.4 million contribution from Netflix. Additional backing from Capri Holdings, Microsoft Corp., and The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation further expanded the college’s resources and reach.
While Rashad’s tenure saw growth, it was not without controversy. Her expression of support for Bill Cosby in a tweet after his release from prison, due to overturned sexual assault charges, elicited criticism. Rashad later apologized for the statement, acknowledging its impact on both the general public and the Howard community.
Amid Rashad’s transition, Howard University is preparing to search for her successor. The university also announced the forthcoming departures of deans Gracie Lawson-Borders from the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and Sandra Crewe from the School of Social Work by the end of the academic year.
With the appointment of Ben Vinson III as the 18th president in September, Howard University is poised for a new era of leadership, as Wayne A.I. Frederick steps down after nearly a decade of service.