Long live the King. Howard University has officially rechristened the College of Fine Arts after the late Chadwick Boseman, a Saturday update reveals. The Washington, D.C. school tweeted out a timelapse video of the new lettering being installed a day prior. Check it out below:
The Black Panther star attended Howard University in 2000, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in directing. He studied under the tutelage of Emmy winner Phylicia Rashad, now dean of the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. University president Wayne A. I. Frederick had considered renaming the college after the late alumnus when Boseman passed away from colon cancer last year, at the height of student petitions calling for the same thing. Frederick met with Walt Disney Company executive chairman Bob Iger, a close friend of Boseman’s, in May to discuss the idea; Iger was ecstatic.
“Chadwick Boseman was an extraordinarily gifted, charismatic and kind-hearted person whose incredible talent and generous spirit were clearly reflected in his iconic performances,” Iger said in a statement, “including as King T’Challa in Black Panther and in his tireless commitment to helping others. 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 is currently heading a fundraising effort to build a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility where a parking lot used to stand behind the original Fine Arts building. The new section will house the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts and the Cathy Hughes School of Communication, including Howard’s TV station WHUT and accompanying radio station WHUR 96.3 FM. To help fund scholarships and various student endeavors, a massive endowment is also being cobbled together in honor of Chadwick Boseman, in addition to a separate donation straight from Iger’s personal coffers.
Phylicia Rashad, dean of the College of Fine Arts, owes her decision to front the department to the late Chadwick Boseman. He was closely mentored by Rashad during his entire stay at Howard; in fact, the Cosby Show star is responsible for sending a young Boseman to Oxford while carrying on his degree at Howard. She enlisted the assistance of the one and only Denzel Washington and helped Boseman and his classmates secure the funding they needed to take a summer acting program in the United Kingdom. “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,” Rashād said in May.
According to classmate and fellow alumnus Ta-Nehisi Coates, there is no better person to embody the College of Fine Arts than Chadwick Boseman. The two were students at Howard University at the same time, with Boseman actively protesting the College’s integration into the much bigger College of Arts & Sciences. The school considered the merger to save on costs, but Boseman had other ideas. Coates insists nobody exemplifies the values Howard imparted than the South Carolina native, whose fervent activism he eventually leveraged into the performing arts.
“Naming the College of Fine Arts after Chad, I think it’s perfect and it’s exactly what should be done,” Coates told the school newsroom. “His theater work, his movie work, his acting, and his writing, this was a continuation of that activism. The arts for him were always about something more. We’ve had a long list of artists come out of Howard, but, in our generation, nobody can better articulate, by example or by artistry, what we learned at Howard and what the university gave to us. So, I think it’s just fitting — it makes me teary-eyed thinking about it — naming the College after our brother who never stopped fighting for it.” Chadwick Boseman was a directing major when Coates was in Howard, studying journalism. Ta-Nehisi Coates would later become a distinguished correspondent for The Atlantic.
When it came to his alma mater, Chadwick Boseman dreamed big; he had been planning large-scale overhauls in the hopes of helping the College of Fine Arts better serves its students in the two years before he died. He was the commencement speaker for Batch 2018, where he described Howard as a “magical place.” A school where dreams came true and creatives were encouraged to aspire for better. He was a board member at the College and had been developing a Masterclass in acting, writing, and directing shortly before his passing. He received an honorary doctorate the same year. These goals never happened, but with Iger’s monetary contributions, Frederick is optimistic these will eventually be realized.
“We are very excited. This is the right thing to do,” Frederick said all the way back in May. “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.” Chadwick Boseman’s family, widow Simone Ledward and parents Caroline and Leroy, seconded the school’s efforts. “Chad was a very proud Bison,” Ledward-Boseman said. “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.”
His parents, Caroline and Leroy Boseman have only gratitude for Iger and Frederick. “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,” they wrote in a statement. “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. We are confident that under the dynamic leadership of his former professor and mentor the indomitable Phylicia Rashād that the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts will inspire artistic scholars for many generations.”
Construction on the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts’s second facility hasn’t kicked off yet. According to Frederick, the limitations of the pandemic have significantly hampered expansion. But changing the lettering at the entrance is already a crucial first step.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the sequel to King T’Challa’s solo outing. The film is currently being produced in Chadwick Boseman’s memory. It comes out on July 8, 2022.