Denzel Washington has donated $2.25 million to his former university to fund a new scholarship.

$2 million of the money will endow the Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre and $250,000 will establish the Denzel Washington Endowed Scholarship for an undergraduate student studying theatre at Fordham University.

Tony Award-winning actress Phylicia Rashad, best known to TV audiences for her role as Clair Huxtable on the classic sitcom The Cosby Show, has joined the Fordham faculty as the University’s first Denzel Washington Chair in Theatre.

“Show me a successful individual, and I’ll show you someone who has had positive influences in his or her life. The late Bob Stone, my mentor, was a former actor and professor at Fordham University. Bob was one of those influences in my life. He believed in me and gave me something to live up to,” Washington said. "I wanted to create the Denzel Washington Endowed Scholarship and Chair in Theatre at Fordham in order to offer the next generation of students positive influences. Phylicia Rashad, as the inaugural holder of the chair, will provide the care, compassion and that extra push to help take students where they’re meant to go.

“The theatre program is deeply honored by Denzel’s support. He’s a model for students in his acting and directing choices, and he has inspired them with his visits to Fordham; besides being a brilliant actor, Denzel is a born teacher. Casting himself as Melvin Tolson, the master teacher he plays in his film The Great Debaters, is perfect type casting,” said Matthew Maguire, professor of theatre and director of the program.

“Phylicia Rashad is also an inspiration. Like Denzel, she is one of our top actors of film and TV who always returns to her roots on stage. Our students are thrilled to learn from this unique artist whose dynamism and powerful authenticity earned her the Tony for Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun.”

The first Denzel Washington Endowed Scholarship recipient will likely be announced in fall 2012. The scholarship is intended for a minority undergraduate theatre major, and if possible, a graduate from the Mount Vernon, N.Y., school district.

“Fordham is deeply in Denzel Washington’s debt, not only for his generous gifts to the theatre program, but also for his longstanding commitment and public support for the University,” said Roger A. Milici Jr., vice president for development and University relations. “His international reputation and star power will certainly bring greater interest to Fordham programs and greater support for our mission. We are especially grateful and honored to count Denzel Washington as an alumnus and generous benefactor.”

Source: Fordham University

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