Presidential Award for Distinguished Service Presented To Actor Terrence Howard At 2012 Commencement Program
May 14, 2012
In addition to the traditional pomp and circumstance surrounding the May 12, 2012 Cheyney University Commencement Convocation, acclaimed actor Terrence Howard was awarded a Presidential Award for Distinguished Service. Mr. Howard depicted Jim Ellis, former Cheyney University Swimming Coach in the 2007 movie, THE PRIDE.
“Cheyney University welcomes a special guest to its 175th Anniversary Commencement. In addition to the legendary Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., actor and singer Terrence Howard is expected to stop by to congratulate the graduates and to demonstrate his commitment to learning throughout life’s journey. Actor Terrence Howard portrayed Jim Ellis in the movie Pride. Mr. Ellis is a graduate of Cheyney University, and the name of “Cheyney” was mentioned in the film. We are more than honored by Mr. Howard’s thoughtful appearance, “ stated President Michelle Howard-Vital.
Raised in a multiracial Jehovah's Witness household, Terrence Howard studied chemical engineering at Pratt Institute before being discovered on the street in New York. Though his great grandmother Minnie Gentry was a successful New York stage actress, Howard didn't venture onto the screen himself until the age of twenty.
This quickly led to appearances on such television shows as Coach, Street Legal, Living Single, and Picket Fences. His breakout role in 1995's Mr. Holland's Opus helped pave the way for Howard's film career, as did his critically acclaimed performance as Cowboy in the Hughes brothers film Dead Presidents. By the time he took the role of Quentin in 1999's The Best Man, Howard had established a reputation as an actor of both skill and integrity, respected by the film industry as well as the black community. The new millennium finally brought Howard the kind of work that not only showcased his talent but made him a well-known name. His role in the controversial Paul Haggis film Crash, as well as his work in the John Singleton's Four Brothers brought him to the attention of both mainstream audiences and critics. He also attracted the spotlight on the small screen around this time with parts in the acclaimed TV films Their Eyes Were Watching God with Halle Berry, and Lackawanna Blues with S. Epatha Merkerson. This set the stage for his career-making performance as a pimp desperate to create a new life for himself as a musician in Hustle & Flow, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. Never one to rest for long, Howard soon moved on to take a role in 50 Cent's semi-autobiographical Get Rich or Die Tryin', as well as the musical Idlewild.