Kerry Washington Creates $1 Million Earl and Valerie Washington Endowed Scholarship Fund to Open Doors to a Liberal Arts Education at GW

Emmy-winning actor, producer, activist, former trustee and GW alumna establishes need-based scholarship in honor of her parents.

September 29, 2023

Sonya Rankin, Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington and Ellen M. Granberg

From left: Sonya Rankin, Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington and Ellen M. Granberg backstage at Lisner Auditorium. (Lily Speredelozzi/GW Today)

Distinguished alumna Kerry Washington, B.A. ‘98, HON ‘13, has established the Earl and Valerie Washington Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor her parents and support need-based undergraduate study at the George Washington University. President Ellen M. Granberg announced the scholarship at a Wednesday evening event on GW’s Foggy Bottom campus celebrating her new memoir, “Thicker than Water,” chronicling Washington’s life and career. 

The memoir includes Washington’s journey to GW from the Bronx, New York, as an undergraduate, supported by a prestigious Presidential Performing Arts Scholarship. “With my scholarship, I was being paid not just to act, but to learn how to act; I was given a toolbox to access and harness the magic,” Washington notes in her book. 

At GW Washington engaged in the work of theater in the costume and scene shop, in auditions and performances and through intensive coursework. It was at GW that Washington “fell more deeply in love with the craft” and decided to pursue acting as a profession.

Kerry Washington behind the stage at Lisner
Kerry Washington backstage at Lisner Auditorium during her time as a GW undergrad.

The scholarship fund, named for her mother, an educator, and her father, a real estate broker, will support undergraduate students in need of financial support pursuing liberal arts degrees at GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS). As an endowed fund, this generous support will endure in perpetuity, offering scholarships to many future generations of GW students.  

“Kerry is a remarkable example of the determination and success so many GW alumni achieve in their chosen fields. We are so proud of what she has accomplished in her life and career and the grace and generosity she continues to model,” said Granberg. “We are so grateful that she has chosen to honor her parents in this very special way, and that she continues to be an active part of the GW community.”

In addition to a noted career in television, film and civic life, Washington has been an active supporter of her alma mater. Her service as a trustee, a commencement speaker and through numerous moments she has offered insight to GW students earned her the honor of Monumental Alumna in 2021. 

“Kerry is a remarkable example of the way many GW alumni walk the talk,” said Donna Arbide, GW’s vice president of development and alumni relations. “She is committed to her career and to making a meaningful difference through her philanthropy and her activism. It is particularly moving that she has chosen to honor her parents by supporting future generations.”  

Washington is heavily involved with social and political causes, embodying a commitment to a better world common to many GW alumni. An activist since her teens, she now uses her platform to support grassroots efforts to promote democracy, women entrepreneurs, and other causes.

CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck expressed gratitude on behalf of the Columbian College and the talented students these scholarships will attract. “Solving the complex problems facing humanity requires us to bring together people and ideas from diverse disciplines and cultures in innovative ways,” he said. “Our graduates are known for thoughtful deliberation, creative innovation and agile collaboration. Those are skills our world desperately needs, and that Kerry, in her many roles, embodies.”

Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunity for the next generation of leaders.