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Howard University Names Its Fine Arts College After Chadwick Boseman

The family of the late actor, who was a proud Howard alum, said that he would have been "overjoyed" about the honor.

Howard University is honoring Chadwick Boseman’s legacy by naming its newly reestablished college of fine arts after the late actor, the university announced Wednesday.

The historically Black university, where Boseman was a student, announced that the college will be named the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. Boseman’s family celebrated the announcement in a statement, saying that the late actor would have been “overjoyed” about the honor. Boseman died of cancer in August 2020 at age 43. 

“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,” Boseman’s family said.

The university stated in its Wednesday’s announcement that Boseman had led a student protest during his time at the university against the absorption of the college of fine arts into the college of arts and sciences. 

Boseman, who graduated from Howard University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing, memorably returned to the university in 2018 to serve as the commencement speaker at graduation.

The university said on Wednesday that it had announced plans to reestablish the college of fine arts that same year.

“When Chadwick Boseman returned to campus in 2018 to serve as our commencement speaker, he called Howard a magical place,” Howard University president Wayne A. I. Frederick said in Wednesday’s announcement. “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.”

Frederick called Boseman’s love for Howard University “sincere.” He discussed building plans for the fine arts college, revealing that Bob Iger, executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company, had volunteered to lead fundraising efforts to build a “state-of-the-art facility and endowment for the college.” 

The new building will also house the Cathy Hughes School of Communications and the university’s television and radio stations, WHUT-TV and WHUR 96.3 FM, the university said. 

Howard University announced earlier this month that Howard alum Phylicia Rashad was appointed to serve as the dean of its newly reestablished college of fine arts. Frederick said at the time of the announcement that he could “think of no individual better suited to take on this role.”

Rashad, who previously served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member at Howard University, had taught Boseman when he was a student in the late 1990s. 

The two have spoken publicly about their shared admiration for each other and their time together at Howard University. 

During a 2019 speech, when Denzel Washington received the 47th American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, Boseman shared onstage that Rashad had once encouraged Washington to join her efforts in giving financial assistance for Boseman and other students at Howard University to attend a summer theater program at the University of Oxford. 

The “Black Panther” star said that he ultimately became the beneficiary of a donation from Washington and was able to attend the program. 

Rashad reflected on her time teaching Boseman, telling Entertainment Tonight in 2020 that she remembered his “smile and his gentle way.”

“I remember his unending curiosity and his love of study, studying many things all of the time,” she continued.

Rashad also marveled at Boseman’s various acting roles, saying that she was surprised that he did not win an Oscar for his portrayal of James Brown in 2014’s “Get On Up.”  

“When you talk about someone going deep inside themselves to step out of themselves, and to present a human being that we know superficially and to go deeper into the psychology of that person, that was phenomenal work,” she told ET. 

Rashad raved about the late actor in the university’s announcement on Wednesday, saying he was “unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence.” 

Boseman’s wife, Simone Ledward-Boseman, said in Wednesday’s statement that both Howard University and 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,” she added.

Boseman’s performance as trumpet player Levee Green in the 2020 adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” earned him wide praise this past awards season. It was his final film performance.