The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Spring 2017 commencement speaker will be award-winning actress and director Phylicia Rashad. The free, public event will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 13, in the Pine Bluff Convention Center Arena.


Rashad, who became a household name when she portrayed Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, is one of the entertainment world’s most extraordinary performing artists, according to a press release.


Currently, she has a recurring role as Diana Dubois on the Fox TV series Empire and is slated to appear in the upcoming Amazon series, Jean Claude Van Johnson.


The Houston, Texas, native graduated Magna Cum Laude from Howard University. As The Cosby Show mom, she earned numerous honors and awards for over two decades. She teamed up with Bill Cosby again on television as Ruth Lucas on Cosby.


“While television was a catalyst in the rise of Rashad’s career, she has also been a force on the stage, appearing both on and off-Broadway, often in projects that showcase her musical talent such as Jelly’s Last Jam, Into The Woods, Dreamgirls and The Wiz,” according to the release.


“Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2016, Ms. Rashad received the 2016 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as ‘Shelah’ in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes at the Public Theater. She has performed on Broadway as ‘Violet Weston’ in August Osage County, ‘Big Mama’ in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (a role that she reprised on the London Stage), ‘Aunt Ester’ in August Wilson’s Gem Of The Ocean, (Tony Award nomination) and ‘Queen Britannia’ in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline at Lincoln Center,” according to the release.


Also respected in the academic world, Rashad was the first recipient of the Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre at Fordham University. The recipient of numerous honorary doctorates, she was also presented the recognition at Spelman College where First Lady Michelle Obama delivered the 2011 commencement address.


In 2015, Rashad received the BET Honors Theatrical Arts Award, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s Spirit of Shakespeare Award, and the Inaugural Legacy Award of the Ruben Santiago Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center.


She has received numerous awards, including the 2014 Mosaic Woman Legend Award of Diversity Woman Magazine, Peoples’ Choice Awards, several NAACP Image Awards and the Pan African Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Rashad is also the mother of two adult children.