After being attacked on Mother’s Day, legendary actress Phylicia Rashad has landed a new role. But this one isn’t onscreen. Howard University announced on May 12 that Rashad would be the dean of its newly reestablished College of Fine Arts.
Rashad, 72, was selected to lead the college after a comprehensive national search, according to a university press release. A Howard alumna, Rashad graduated magna cum laude in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the prestigious HBCU. She will begin her tenure July 1.
“It is a privilege to serve in this capacity and to work with the Howard University administration, faculty and students in reestablishing the College of Fine Arts,” Rashad said in a statement.
Howard Provost Anthony K. Wutoh also expressed his excitement at Rashad joining the university in her new capacity. “It is an honor to welcome one of Howard’s acclaimed daughters back home to Alma Mater,” Wutoh said. “In this full-circle moment, Ms. Phylicia Rashad will take the training and skills that she honed as a student at Howard and exuded in an outstanding performing career, and she will share those pearls of wisdom with the next generation of students in the College of Fine Arts. Her passion for the arts and student success makes her a perfect fit for this role.”
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The announcement comes just days after self-described “LGBTQ Twitter Historian” Lisa Talmadge attacked Phylicia Rashad by addressing her as her onscreen character Claire Huxtable, accusing her of knowing that then-co-star Bill Cosby was drugging and raping women and enabling him.
“Clair Huxtable was an enabler of the longest and most prolific drug rape predator in U.S. history, Bill Cosby,” Talmadge wrote in a now-deleted tweet on May 9. “Everyone on set knew he was a sadistic predator. Everyone. Seventy-five women drugged and raped by Cosby and he got away with it because of enablers.”
While some Twitter users agreed with Talmadge, many others immediately came to Rashad’s defense. “For Lisa Talmadge to say this about Claire Huxtable (a fictional Character) says a lot about white Karen moderates like her,” @iamchanteezy wrote.
“She knows Claire Huxtable is a television character, but is too cowardly to use the actress’s real name to call her out, and provides NO proof of her accusation that anyone on the set knew. #Disgusting #Sad,” @peggy0242 added. “I see Lisa talmadge went full misogynoir today with her Clair huxtable bullsh*t,”@BeninBiloxi chimed in.
“There’s an argument to be made for those who stayed willfully blind but that’s not what this is. Claire Huxtable is a fictional character, Bill Cosby a powerful abuser enabled by powerful producers in HW not Felicia (sic) Rashad. Women R not to blame for the crimes of men,” @Marghan8 tweeted.
Even sexual assault survivors criticized Talmage for her post. “This is dismissive and unacceptable. As someone who has liked and admired your work and passion, and as a survivor myself, this doesn’t help anyone,” @salstrange wrote. “You deliberately dehumanized a woman by referring to her as a fictional character. You accused her of specific actions.”
Rashad didn’t respond to Talmadge, rather she posted a photo of she, her sister Debbie Allen and their mother at an event in celebration of her mom.
In addition to her extensive resume as an actress, Rashad has been working in academia for many years, working as an adjunct professor, teaching master classes, workshops, etc. at various colleges and universities including Howard, New York University (NYU), Carnegie Mellon, Vassar College and The Black Arts Institute of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. Rashad was also the first Denzel Washington hair at Fordham University, according to CNN.
It was also revealed Rashad was instrumental in mentoring and helping late “Black Panther” actor Chadwick Boseman attend the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer program.
Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick also had high praise for Rashad’s selection. “I can think of no individual better suited to take on this role than Ms. Phylicia Rashad,” Frederick said in a statement.
“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. 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,” Frederick continued. “Under her leadership, Howard will continue to inspire and cultivate the artists and leaders who will shape our niche and national cultures for generations to come.”