WASHINGTON – Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University, announced today that alumna and Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning actress, filmmaker, philanthropist and entrepreneur Taraji P. Henson will serve as the 2022 Commencement orator during the 154th Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7, 2022. Henson, who was recently appointed by President Joe Biden to join the White House HBCU Initiative advisory board, will address the Class of 2022 and their families, University trustees, officers, faculty, staff and alumni. Howard University will confer upon Henson the honorary doctorate of humane letters.
“It is with great pleasure that the Howard University community will welcome alumna Taraji P. Henson back home to deliver the 2022 Commencement address,” said Dr. Frederick. “An accomplished actress and fierce champion for HBCUs and the African American community at large, Ms. Henson exemplifies the University tenets of excellence in truth and service. We could not be more excited to have her join us in celebrating the graduating Class of 2022.”
Henson is a 1995 graduate of what is now Howard University's Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts. She is an award-winning actress, producer and director, a best-selling author, and a noted philanthropist and advocate of mental health services in the African American community through her foundation, the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation. She launched her foundation in 2018 to work toward eradicating the stigma around mental health issues in the African American community. The foundation, named in honor of her father, who suffered mental health challenges without resources or support, provides access to localized and Black culturally competent therapy resources sourced through a network of clinicians, service providers, counselors and thought leaders.
“I am honored and humbled to be returning to my Alma Mater, Howard University, to deliver this year’s Commencement address to the graduating Class of 2022 and their families,” said Henson. “Returning to Howard always feels like coming home, and I cannot wait to share this incredible moment with Howard students as they prepare to take the next step in their journeys to success.”
Henson holds numerous industry awards and nominations for her on-screen roles. In 2016, she was praised for her starring role as Katherine Johnson in the critically acclaimed drama film “Hidden Figures,” for which the cast received a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. In 2015, she began starring as Cookie Lyon in the Fox drama series “Empire,” for which she won a Golden Globe Award, received three Emmy nominations, won three BET awards, and became the first African American woman to win a Critics Choice Television Award for best actress in a drama series.
In 2005, Henson played opposite Terrance Howard in “Hustle & Flow,” for which the cast received a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. She also received nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie for her starring role in the Lifetime Television film “Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story” in addition to Academy Award, SAG Award and Critics Choice Award nominations for best supporting actress for her performance in David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Henson has won numerous NAACP Image Awards for performances in television series and motion pictures, most recently for her performance as Miss Hannigan in NBC’s “Annie Live!” in 2021.
In Fall 2020, Henson launched her production company, TPH Entertainment, with producing partner Christine Conley, with a goal to create projects that challenge audiences to think differently and offer new perspectives and opportunities. TPH Entertainment has previously announced several projects, including “Two-Faced” with Bron Entertainment, which Henson will also direct, marking her feature film directorial debut. They also have “Time Alone” with Alessandro Camon and “Sorcerority,” which they will co-produce with Game Changer Films and Gabrielle Union’s I’ll Have Another Productions.
A New York Times best-selling author, Henson’s autobiography, titled “Around the Way Girl,” chronicled her rise to success, how she overcame adversity and the world-class instruction she received from Howard University. Henson is currently in production on Blitz Bazawule’s “The Color Purple,” where she will star as Shug Avery.
In early 2020, Henson launched her own haircare line, TPH by Taraji, which has won numerous awards from industry titans, including Allure, Essence, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, SELF and more. She just announced her expansion into body care with BODY by TPH, offering affordably luxurious, clean, unapologetically self-indulgent products in the bath and body care space.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
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