In the days following Chadwick Boseman's death from colon cancer in August, Howard University students circulated a petition to rename the fine arts college after the actor, one of its most acclaimed alumni, which got over 58,000 signatures. It just so happened that Howard president Wayne A.I. Frederick was thinking along the same lines. On Wednesday, the university made it official, renaming its performing and visual arts school to honor the Black Panther star.
Boseman was a proud Howard alum and gave the university's commencement speech in 2018. He graduated from the school in 2000 with a degree in directing. The actor became a global superstar as Black Panther but also earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in last year's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Boseman kept his cancer diagnosis almost entirely secret, and before his death at 43, he'd agreed to serve on the board of Howard's fine arts college and develop a Master's Class series for students, Frederick told the Washington Post.
"We are very excited. This is the right thing to do," Frederick 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."
A few weeks ago, Howard named The Cosby Show actress Phylicia Rashad dean of the College of Fine Arts. She's also a Howard alum, who befriended Boseman and became his mentor when he was a college student. She helped the young actor pay for a summer program at Oxford University while he was attending 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 told the Washington Post.
The Walt Disney Company distributed the Marvel flick Black Panther, and executive chairman Bob Iger will raise money for an endowment in Boseman's name. He'll also spearhead fundraising for a state-of-the-art building on Howard's campus, which will be home to the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts and the Cathy Hughes School of Communications, plus its TV station, WHUT, and its radio station, WHUR 96.3 FM.