Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after Chadwick Boseman.
Boseman, who passed away last August at age 43 from colon cancer, attended Howard before becoming a household name in Hollywood. The news also comes after Howard recently named alumna Phylicia Rashad as the college’s dean. While Boseman was a student, Rashad befriended Boseman and became one of his mentors. It was also Rashad who helped Boseman secure funding to pay for him to attend a summer acting program at Oxford University while at Howard.
“Unrelenting in his pursuit of excellence, Chadwick was possessed with a passion for inquiry and a determination to tell stories, through acting, writing, and directing, that revealed the beauty and complexity of our human spirit,” Rashad said.
Boseman attended Howard between 1997-2000 and during his undergrad he led a protest of the administration at the time when officials decided to consolidate the College of Fine Arts into the larger College of Arts & Sciences. It was finally being restored as a stand-along department in 2018, when Boseman returned to give the commencement address and receive an honorary doctorate from Howard.
In the days following his death, Howard students circulated a petition to have the fine arts college renamed for Boseman. An action the University’s students, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick agreed with.
“When Chadwick Boseman returned to campus in 2018 to serve as our commencement speaker, he called Howard a magical place. During his visit, I announced our plans to re-establish the College of Fine Arts and he was filled with ideas and plans to support the effort in a powerful way,” Fredrick said. “Chadwick’s love for Howard University was sincere, and although he did not live to see those plans through to fruition, it is my honor to ensure his legacy lives on through the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts with the support of his wife and the Chadwick Boseman Foundation.
The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman.
In a statement, Iger called Boseman an “extraordinary gifted, charismatic and kindhearted person” noting his “iconic” performances in a string of films along with his “tireless commitment” to helping others.
He will as help raise money for the construction of a state-of-the-art building on the campus. The new building will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts, the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.
“Through his tremendous example, he inspired millions to overcome adversity, dream big and reach beyond the status quo, and this college named in his honor at his beloved Howard University will provide opportunities for future generations of artists to follow in his footsteps and pursue their dreams,” Iger said.
Frederick said because of economic challenges caused by the pandemic, no date has been identified to break ground on the building. “This may take some time, but we’re moving with haste,” he said. The new building, he said, will be located in the existing parking lot directly behind the current College of Fine Arts building.
Boseman’s parents said their son “would be overjoyed by this development.” “His time at Howard University helped shape both the man and the artist that he became, committed to truth, integrity, and a determination to transform the world through the power of storytelling,” Caroline and Leroy Boseman said in a statement.
His widow, Simone Ledward-Boseman, thanked the 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.”