In 2007, the actor starred in “The Great Debaters,” portraying Melvin B. Tolson, a legendary debate team coach at Wiley College in the 1930s. During Tolson’s time, he helped break barriers, integrating collegiate debates and guiding the Wiley debate team on a 10-year undefeated winning streak. The year the film debuted, Washington made a $1 million commitment to ensure the debate team at Wiley college would continue to succeed and keep the scholarly tradition alive and kicking.
Recently, the famous debate team announced they had received their next round of support, a fourth $100,000 payment from Washington’s Family Foundation. The funding goes towards covering sign-up for debate team representatives and offering scholarships. Since the funding began in 2007, Washington’s generous donation has helped many students at the historically Black university. Jaylon Bolden, a recent Wiley college graduate who credits his $80,000 in Washington Family Foundation scholarships with helping him to get through school and ensure he remained a debate team member keeping the legacy going.
Dr. Herman J. Felton, Wiley College President, spoke about the significance of the funding.
“Being a dominant force as home of The Great Debaters makes us a very attractive option for those skilled in debate, and this financial support further amplifies the benefits of becoming a Wiley debate scholar.”
In a 2018 press release, Washington said he plans to continue supporting the team along their journey.
“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.”
News Source: BOTWC