Howard University has turned to someone with real-world experience in the subject matter, and who also knows something about the school, to become dean of its College of Fine Arts. The Washington, DC, university named Phylicia Rashad to the job on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports. The actress graduated magna cum laude from Howard with a bachelor's degree in fine arts in 1970. Her sister, choreographer Debbie Allen, graduated the next year, and their father, Andrew Arthur Allen, graduated from the dental school in 1945. Rashad, who played Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show from 1984 to 1992, already has taught at Howard and been a trustee. In what the provost called "this full circle moment," she'll share her knowledge gained in a successful career that was built on her Howard training, per WRC.
At the same time, the College of Fine Arts will regain its independence after being combined with the College of Arts and Sciences in 1998 to save money. "The discipline and study of fine arts are not understood," Rashad says. "They are undervalued." She wants to make the program preeminent on campus. "I would like to see the College of Fine Arts not only reestablished, but see it exulted," Rashad says. She began her career on Broadway and has also appeared on TV and in films. Her awards include a Tony. She's also directed. Rashad will be unusual among Howard deans in that she doesn't have an advanced degree. "She was the best candidate," Howard president Wayne A.I. Frederick says. "Her experience in fine arts is extremely important." Rashad, 72, signed a three-year contract and intends to keep working in Hollywood. "I will be a working artist," she says. (Read more Phylicia Rashad stories.)