​​Robert TownsendRobert Townsend

Actor/Businessman/Civic Leader

California State University, Northridge

Mr. Robert Townsend, a consummate actor, comedian, screenwriter, director and producer, personifies the excellence and achievements that embody the objectives and ideals of the California State University and California State University, Northridge, and exemplifies the university's aspirations for its diverse student body. In addition to his successful career in the entertainment industry, Mr. Townsend's humanitarian efforts on behalf of inner city youth through his work throughout the country with the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP, and his mentoring of CSUN's cinema and television arts students, make him an exemplary role model in the community and in Hollywood.

Growing up on the west side of Chicago in a single parent home, Mr. Townsend began acting in high school and studying acting and performing at Chicago's X-Bag, the Experimental Black Actors Guild. After moving to New York and becoming a regular performer at the Improv, Mr. Townsend moved to Hollywood and co-starred in television specials and films. Noting the difficulty black actors had and the lack of good work available for African Americans in the film industry, Mr. Townsend created the critically acclaimed feature film "Hollywood Shuffle." The film's success led to many more successful directing and producing opportunities. Mr. Townsend served as president and CEO of the Black Family Channel, and has been nominated for more than 30 NAACP Image Awards for his film and television work. He is a long-time spokesman for the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP, and has a distinguished record of personal work around the country with inner city and disadvantaged youth to help them realize their dreams.

Mr. Townsend has established a strong relationship with CSUN, mentoring film students and regularly visiting the campus to speak, serving as speaker for the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication's Distinguished Lecture Series during Black History Month in 2015. Mr. Townsend has employed CSUN film students and provided them with the opportunity to work with him on some of his projects.

In recognition of his distinguished artistic career, his ongoing commitment to portray black history and the black experience in his work, his successful efforts as a mentor and role model, and his outstanding community service, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Northridge are proud to confer upon Mr. Robert Townsend the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts.