Actress Phylicia Rashad is headed back to college, this time as head of the fine arts department at her alma mater Howard University.
Rashad, best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s and ‘90s, will assume her new role as dean of the re-established College of Fine Arts on July 1, the university announced Wednesday.
The opportunity comes some 50 years after Rashad, 72, graduated from the historically Black college with honors and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick said he could think of no one better to take on the 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,” Frederick said in a 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’s career spans more than 40 years and includes both film and Broadway credits including “Dream Girls,” “The Wiz” and a revival of “A Raisin in the Sun,” for which she won a Tony Award in 2004. The Texas native also has experience behind the camera and made her directorial debut at the Seattle Repertory Theater with “Gem of the Ocean” by playwright August Wilson.
Serving as fine arts dean is Rashad’s latest role in academia. She has previously served as an adjunct faculty member and guest lecturer at several top rated colleges and universities including Julliard, Vassar College and New York University, Howard officials said. In 2011, she became the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theater at Fordham University.
Rashad will return to her old stomping grounds this summer, calling it “a privilege to serve in this capacity” and work with Howard University officials to restore the fine arts college.
News of the actress’ return was celebrated by fans and fellow Howard University alums.
“I am so thrilled!” one woman wrote on Twitter. “As a fellow alumna, I am wishing her the best as she takes on yet another challenging & important role.”
“If Phylicia Rashad wants me to go to Howard all she had to do was ask,” another wrote. “I can get a Master’s.”
This spring, the university had 307 students enrolled in its fine arts program, The Washington Post reported. Notable alumni of the program include singer Roberta Flack, actress Taraji P. Henson and the late Chadwick Boseman.