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Howard University Appoints Phylicia Rashad As Dean of Its College Of Fine Arts

The acclaimed actor said returning to her alma mater for her new role is a "privilege."

Phylicia Rashad will serve as the dean of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts beginning this summer, the institution announced on Wednesday. 

The award-winning actor and Howard University alum will report to the school’s provost Anthony K. Wutoh. She will officially head the newly reestablished fine arts college beginning July 1, the university said. 

Howard University president Wayne A. I. Frederick celebrated Rashad’s appointment, saying he could “think of no individual better suited to take on this role.” 

“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,” he continued in the statement. “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.”

Rashad graduated from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1970, The Associated Press reported. Years later she went on to portray her iconic role as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” which first aired in 1984. 

The actor has since received many accolades and appeared in a wide variety of roles on TV, in movies and onstage over her decadeslong career.

She was the first Black woman to win a Best Actress Tony award in 2004 for her portrayal of Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Last year, she voiced the character of Libba Gardner in Pixar’s animated film “Soul.”

Rashad holds an honorary doctorate from a number of institutions, including Howard University, where she served as a guest lecturer and adjunct faculty member.  

Speaking about her experience teaching a master class at Howard University, Rashad told Variety that she not only “marveled” at her students’ talent, but she was also impressed by their “fearlessness.” 

“I have never seen anything like it,” added. 

Rashad told the publication that her new role does not mean that she’s “retired” from acting, and that she had “projects in the pipeline” prior to her appointment. 

She called her new position a “privilege.” 

“I never saw myself as a dean,” she told Variety 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 a reestablishing the College of Fine Arts, to engage with the administration, the faculty, the students, the alumni, as well as artists around the country.”