Streaming giant Netflix has established a $5.4 million endowed scholarship at Howard University to honor actor and alum Chadwick Boseman, officials announced Monday.
The Chadwick A. Boseman Memorial Scholarship will award full scholarships to students in the historically Black university’s College of Fine Arts, which was named after the late actor in May.
The first gifts have already been doled out to Sarah Long, a freshman who studies musical theater; Shawn Smith, a sophomore in the acting program; Janee’ Ferguson, a junior in theater arts administration; and Deirdre Dunkin, a senior studying dance.
Starting next year, a first-year student will be selected annually for the scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years – a total of about $113,800. The award targets students who “exemplify exceptional skills in the arts reminiscent of Mr. Boseman” and demonstrate a financial need, officials said.
“Many exemplary artists are not afforded the opportunity to pursue higher learning, we hope to support as many students as possible by removing the financial barrier to education,” the actor’s wife, Simone Ledward-Boseman, said in a statement. “This endowment represents Chad’s devotion to the craft, his compassion for others and his desire to support future storytellers.”
Boseman is widely known for playing the titular character and hero of Marvel’s “Black Panther.” But his legacy rests largely in his sensitive portrayal of Black icons – from Jackie Robinson in “42” to James Brown in “Get on Up” and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”
The actor, writer, director and producer died in August 2020 of colon cancer. He was 43. Boseman was posthumously nominated for an Academy Award for his work in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – an adaptation of August Wilson’s 1982 production – which premiered on Netflix after a short stint in theaters.
“While he was taken from us too soon, his spirit is with us always in his work and the good that he has inspired,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-chief executive and chief content officer, said of Boseman. “He always spoke of his time at Howard and the positive way it shaped his life and career. Now, we will have the opportunity to give many future superheroes a chance to experience the same.”
Before he graced movie screens, Boseman was a Howard student. It was there he befriended Howard alumna and “The Cosby Show” actress Phylicia Rashad – now dean of the school that bears Boseman’s name. Rashad became one of Boseman’s mentors and helped him secure funding for a summer acting program at Oxford University.
A native of South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard in 2000 with a bachelor of fine arts in directing. He delivered the university’s commencement address in 2018, where he applauded activism on campus and encouraged students to find a purpose, not just a job.
“Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history,” he told the graduating class.
Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard’s president, said the endowed scholarship embodies Boseman’s love for the university.
“I think Howard meant a lot to Chadwick,” Frederick said. The actor had an “incredible journey” at the school and built lasting relationships on campus. “All of those things inspired him to want to give back to the university,” Frederick said.
The scholarships will be a launchpad for students, many of whom struggle financially, Frederick said. About half of Howard’s student body is eligible for federal Pell grants reserved for low-income families.
“I would underscore that this type of support is support that means a lot to our students,” Frederick said, adding that opportunities that lessen the financial burden on students are “critical.”
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