Fordham College at Lincoln Center, Class of 1977
Academy Award-Winning Actor
(Inducted in 2012)
When Denzel Washington commits to something, his commitment endures—whether it be to a role, a charity, his alma mater, or his family.
Not only has he become a tremendous box-office star and one of the great actors of our time, but he is a dedicated father and husband, a longtime spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and a champion of theater education at Fordham. The two-time Oscar winner served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2000, and returns occasionally to the Lincoln Center campus to inspire theater students with his advice and success. In 2011, he established the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre with a $2 million gift to Fordham, and made a $250,000 gift to establish a scholarship fund for theater students.
In creating the endowed professorship and scholarship, the Mt. Vernon, New York, native said he hoped to “offer the next generation of students positive influences,” like the kind he received from his Fordham mentor, the late actor Robinson Stone, Ph.D. Washington carries with him on location a recommendation letter written by the English professor and theater teacher, in which Stone predicts the actor’s talent will “be among the most exciting and fulfilling of our time.”
Washington clearly proved him right. The year he earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Fordham, he was cast in the television film Wilma. But it was his stage performance in A Soldier’s Play that impressed NBC’s St. Elsewhere producers, who cast him as Dr. Phillip Chandler in the hit series.
In 1991, Fordham awarded Washington an honorary doctorate for “exploring the edge of his multifaceted talent,” and he went on to push those edges even further. His career includes five Oscar nominations and two wins—for Training Day and Glory—among dozens of other acting and directing accolades, including several for his powerful portrayal of civil rights leader Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s 1992 film.
Critics routinely describe his work with words like electric, high voltage, and fiery. When he wants to “get better,” he told Fordham students in 2005, he returns to the stage, where he won a Tony Award for Fences in 2010.
As national spokesman for the Boys and Girls Clubs since 1992, Washington wrote the introduction for A Hand to Guide Me, a 2006 book on mentorship celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Clubs. “A single blessing is all the bounty in the world,” he wrote, “and if you’ve been blessed at all you’re meant to pass some of that on.”