MARSHALL – Two-time Academy award winner Denzel Washington has pledged to renew a $1 million gift to Wiley College to continue his funding of its debate program. Washington first donated $1 million to the school in 2007 to support the re-establishment of its program. It had been inactive since the early 1900s, when it was led by English professor and poet, Melvin B. Tolson. Washington starred in and directed the film, “The Great Debaters,” which chronicled the history of the team under Tolson’s mentoring and coaching.
Since the rebirth of the program, which is officially known as the Melvin B. Tolson/Denzel Washington Forensics Society, the team has earned more than 3,000 awards. It has twice won the Overall Sweepstakes Championship and the Individual Events Sweepstakes Championship of the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament. This is a prestigious debate competition that Tolson’s teams were not allowed to enter.