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Howard University renames College of Fine Arts after alum, actor Chadwick Boseman

Actor Chadwick Boseman gives a Wakanda salute to the crowd as Howard University holds its commencement ceremonies on May 12, 2018 in Washington. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post

Howard University is renaming its College of Fine Arts after one of its most acclaimed alums: actor Chadwick Boseman.

On Wednesday, Howard renamed its performing and visual arts school after the “Black Panther” star, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in last year’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Boseman, who graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of arts degree in directing, died in August at the age of 43 from colon cancer.

The renaming unites Howard and Walt Disney Co.’s executive chairman, Bob Iger, who will spearhead fundraising for an endowment named after Boseman, as well 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.

In the days following his death, Howard students circulated a petition to have the fine arts college renamed for Boseman. Unbeknownst to the students, Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said he, too, was thinking of a way to honor him. Before his death, Boseman had agreed to serve on the board of the fine arts college and was developing a Master’s Class series for students, Frederick said.

“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.”

The 2018 film “Black Panther,” produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, catapulted Boseman to international acclaim as the movie’s lead character King T’Challa. The film brought in more than $1.33 billion in revenue, with $700 million in U.S. box office alone, according to the movie financial tracking website the-numbers.com.

Frederick said he was aware that Iger and Boseman had bonded following the film’s opening. After Boseman’s death, he approached Iger with the idea of honoring the late actor who in films also played James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall.

Iger, Frederick said, “wanted to ensure” he helped “memorializing” Boseman’s work and the university’s efforts in “diversifying the entertainment industry.” Frederick said Iger made a personal donation, but declined to elaborate.

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.

“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.