UConn Receives $4 Million for Human Rights Initiatives

The gift, coupled with an additional $2 million raised by the UConn Foundation, will fund scholarships, fellowships, internships, and support for signature programs.

Girls carry heavy baskets of rock at a gravel quarry. (Robin Romano/UConn Archives & Special Collections)

Girls carry heavy baskets of rock at a gravel quarry. (Robin Romano/UConn Archives & Special Collections)

Philanthropist George Soros and UConn alum Gary Gladstein ’66 with his wife, Dr. Phyllis Gladstein, announced a $4 million gift to the UConn Human Rights Institute, the largest donation to the internationally renowned program.

The gift, which requires the UConn Foundation to raise an additional $2 million in matching funds, would give the Institute a $6 million endowment and provide scholarships to undergraduates majoring in human rights.

“The vision and generosity of our donors continues to make an incredible impact on this program and is helping to make UConn a global leader in human rights education and scholarship,” said University President Susan Herbst. “We could not be more grateful to both Gary Gladstein and George Soros for their support and commitment to our university and the field of human rights.”

The Institute, with its interdisciplinary focus, is one of the top human rights programs in higher education worldwide. Faculty members are drawn from most schools and colleges across the university, including anthropology, political science, business, and law. The program has a strong focus on collaborative research and scholarship. The Institute has a rapidly growing student population and its graduates have landed key humanitarian jobs.

“I was a child in Hungary when the Nazis invaded. I then lived under Soviet rule, so I know what it is like to live under brutal regimes that deprive people of their basic human rights,” Soros said. “I am pleased to support UConn’s critical work in researching and promoting human rights. I am glad to partner with Gary to help build UConn’s program.”

Gladstein, who has been the Institute’s primary benefactor, is giving the Institute a gift of $2 million. Soros, a businessman, philanthropist, and political activist, has pledged to give a $2 million challenge grant. Soros’s grant is through the Open Society Foundations, his grant-making network dedicated to building democracies with accountable and open governments.

Soros’s grant requires the UConn Foundation to raise an additional $2 million in matching funds from donors. Once completed, the $6 million endowment will provide scholarships, fellowships, internships, and program support for signature programs, such as the Scholars-at-Risk Initiative.

Gladstein said he was pleased to partner with Soros, a friend and colleague who first raised his awareness of the vital importance of human rights.

“All civilizations must learn to share and respect the human rights of others,” Gladstein said. “The true differences around the world are not between different religions or races, but more about those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it. We can all do much better when we work together.”

“These gifts are transformative because they provide us with a financial foundation that we haven’t had before,” said Dan Weiner, UConn’s vice provost for global affairs.

The Institute is a leader in human rights education and scholarship. It has the largest number of undergraduates studying human rights in the U.S. with 80 students majoring and 55 minoring in human rights. Another 35 participate in the Institute’s graduate certificate program.

“On Martin Luther King Day, as we celebrate a man who stood for civil rights and justice, it is a fitting time to announce a gift that will strengthen UConn’s own commitment to human rights,” said Joshua R. Newton, president and CEO of the UConn Foundation.

The Institute’s cross-disciplinary research teams of faculty and graduate students focus on three distinct areas: economic and social rights, humanitarianism, and global health and human rights.

“This gift will sustain cutting-edge, interdisciplinary scholarship on human rights at the University of Connecticut,” Institute Director Kathryn Libal said.

Program graduates have gone on to hold positions at leading universities and in the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International USA, AmeriCares, and Jewish World Watch.

“We are educating the next generation of human rights scholars, teachers, and practitioners,” Weiner said.