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WILEY COLLEGE RECOGNIZES TWO-TIME OSCAR WINNER DENZEL WASHINGTON

2/21/2018, 2:27 p.m. | Updated on 2/21/2018, 2:27 p.m.
Washington was recognized during the awards ceremony for the nation’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate Championship ...
Washington at the premiere of The Equalizer in 2014. Photo by: Picasa

WILEY COLLEGE RECOGNIZES TWO-TIME OSCAR WINNER DENZEL WASHINGTON

Ten years since the release of the movie “The Great Debaters,” a film that led to the revival of the forensics program at Wiley College, the movie’s director and star, two-time Oscar-winner Denzel Washington, was honored

by the school for his contributions toward raising awareness around the world of the value of debate education.

Washington was recognized during the awards ceremony for the nation’s first Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate Championship Tournament, which was held at Wiley January 25-27.

“Through his support of Wiley College, Mr. Washington has preserved the legacy of the original Great Debaters and their debate coach and mentor, Melvin B. Tolson, while at the same time honoring Tolson’s memory by

ensuring that current generations of students can carry forward Tolson’s legacy of excellence,” said Haywood L. Strickland, President and CEO of Wiley College.

“He has been a staunch supporter of Wiley College and of historically black colleges, and we are forever indebted to him.”

Wiley’s Director of Forensics, Christopher Medina, expressed similar sentiments about Washington. “We are so pleased and it so fitting to

have Mr. Washington back on campus as we launch the HBCU Speech and Debate Tournament,” he said.

“Because of his unyielding support, our debate program was not only reborn, it has excelled in achieving goals of winning highly coveted prizes and awards, and producing Wiley graduates who credit debate education for equipping them with solid and marketable skills to compete in the workforce.”

When presented with the award, Washington was joined on stage by Bob Eisele story writer and script writer for “The Great Debaters” and Jeff Poro, story writer for the “The Great Debaters.”

On the same night that Washington was honored, the HBCU Debate League inducted Professor Tolson, posthumously, and legendary Houston debate coach Dr. Thomas Freeman, who trained Washington for his role in the movie, into its newly established Debate Hall of Fame.

“The Great Debaters” chronicles the history of Wiley’s debate teams

in the early to mid-1900s under the mentoring and coaching of Tolson.

After the film’s release, Washington made a $1 million gift to Wiley to

fund the re-launching of the College’s debate program.

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 and has twice won the Overall

Sweepstakes Championship and the Individual Events Sweepstakes

Championship of the Pi Kappa Delta National Comprehensive Tournament,

a prestigious debate competition that Tolson’s teams were not allowed to take part in.

Last fall, Wiley College formed the HBCU Speech and Debate League thanks to a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation. To date, 18 schools,

including Tennessee State University, Howard University, Rust College, Prairie View A & M University, Jackson State University, and Xavier

University, have joined the league.