Denzel Washington directed and starred in an award-winning film inspired by Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Wiley College in 2008. Now he’s paying his respects back to the college with a generous gift from his family foundation.
According to an announcement, the Denzel Washington Family Foundation has paid its fourth $100,000 installment toward its $1 million commitment to the Texas HBCU in support of students on the legendary Wiley College debate team.
Wiley College was home of the film, “The Great Debaters,” that depicted Washington as a college professor who helped coach the university’s student-led team on its 10-year winning streak in the 1930s, according to a press release. The movie showed how the team went on to pioneer interracial collegiate debates during the Jim Crow era.
The release also reported that Washington’s family foundation made its first $1 million pledge to the college back in 2007, and continued donating $100,000 each year for a decade. The foundation resumed its commitment in 2018 and its funds were then used to help recruit new debate members and offer them scholarships.
In honor of the film that earned Washington a NAACP Image Award and a BET Award, the actor continues to offer financial support to help revive Wiley College’s esteemed debate team to what it once was.
“Supporting the next generation of brilliant minds in the art of debate at Wiley College will open so many doors of opportunity for these students during college, career, and beyond,” Washington said in a statement. “We are honored to continue supporting the best and the brightest in the land and look forward to The Great Debaters continuing to do what they do best: win.”
Wiley College President Dr. Herman J. Felton thanked Washington and his foundation for their charitable donation saying, “We are grateful for the Washington family’s generosity for 15 years and counting to Wiley College’s phenomenal debate team, which, because of this support, can live out our motto to ‘Go forth Inspired.'”
“Being a dominant force as home of The Great Debaters makes us a very attractive option for those skilled in debate,” he continued, “and this financial support further amplifies the benefits of becoming a Wiley debate scholar.”
Though the college’s debate team took time off from competing amid the pandemic last year, it plans to resume its competitions this fall.