Former U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd and the late Wiktor Osiatyński, an eminent constitutional scholar whose fight against injustice spanned the world, will be honored for their inspiring legacies through the establishment of two human rights professorships at UConn.
The Board of Trustees recently approved creation of the Christopher J. Dodd Chair in Human Rights Practice and the Wiktor Osiatyński Chair in Human Rights, both of which will be part of the Human Rights Institute (HRI) in the Office of Global Affairs.
The chair positions are both endowed, meaning they are funded by gifts specifically given through to UConn Foundation by donors to support scholarship, outreach, and teaching in human rights and related critical areas.
The Dodd Chair will head Dodd Human Rights Impact programs and be filled after an international search that starts in August. The first Osiatyński Chair will be a current UConn faculty member who will be selected over the coming academic year in time to start in fall 2023.
UConn is a national leader in the rapidly expanding field of human rights and is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Human Rights Institute in the 2022-23 academic year.
This year also marks 10 years since UConn established an undergraduate major in human rights, becoming the first public U.S. university to do so, after having already created it as a minor in 2001. HRI also has other robust human rights programs offered at the masters and graduate certificate levels.
Dodd and Osiatyński both have had profound impacts on the global effort to protect and promote human rights, and to fight for dignity and equality throughout society.
The establishment of the endowed chair positions in their names builds on the University’s dynamic interdisciplinary Human Rights Institute and its commitment to advancing the scholarship, teaching, and practice of human rights.
“These new chairs honor two global human rights giants. We are very proud to be able to recognize their achievements and legacies in this way,” says Daniel Weiner, UConn’s vice president for global affairs.
The Christopher J. Dodd Chair in Human Rights Practice is named in honor of the former U.S. senator and congressman, who followed in the footsteps of his father to use his positions and influence to passionately advocate for human rights across the globe.
Dodd’s father, Thomas J. Dodd, was also a senator and congressman, and was among the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trials on which some of the most notorious Nazi war criminals were prosecuted for World War II atrocities perpetrated under the Third Reich.
Christopher Dodd continues his work through his support of the Dodd Center for Human Rights at UConn, including having hosted President Joe Biden in fall 2021 to focus on human rights advocacy and action.
Senator Dodd and his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, established the Dodd Endowment at the UConn Foundation in 2020 and initial gifts to the fund were announced in 2021 in conjunction with President Biden’s visit to dedicate the Dodd Center for Human Rights.
“(It) will honor Senator Dodd’s contributions to the world and to the University, and extend his legacy by creating a new and innovative space for UConn’s human rights outreach and engagement work … (It) will help address the urgent need to protect human rights and preserve human dignity,” UConn Interim President Radenka Maric told trustees in her recommendation to approve the new endowed chair.
The second endowed chair in honor of Wiktor Osiatyński will rotate every three years among UConn faculty who have made significant contributions in their careers to the study of human rights.
UConn alumnus Gary Gladstein ’66 (CLAS) ’08 (HON) and his wife, Dr. Phyllis Gladstein, have been integral to the growth and success of the institute, including Gladstein’s recent partnership with George Soros of the Open Society Foundations to establish the endowed fund supporting the new Osiatyński Chair.
The Gladsteins have donated generously over more than two decades in support of human rights education and programming at UConn, including endowing the Gladstein Chair of Human Rights in 2003 and the Marsha Lilien Gladstein Visiting Professorship in Human Rights in 2000.
Osiatyński, who died in 2017, was a world-renowned expert in constitutional law who coauthored the Bill of Rights draft that then-President Lech Walęsa of Poland submitted to that nation’s Parliament. He also wrote several provisions of the constitution adopted by Poland in 1997 and wrote 25 books on various subjects, including constitutionalism, addiction, science, sports, and social as well as political ideas.
Osiatyński played an instrumental role in fostering civil and political rights movements and the democratic transition of many states in Central and Eastern Europe. His work in the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and as a board member of the Open Society Foundations had a profound impact on programs ranging from the rule of law and constitutional development to gender-based violence and health and substance use.
Osiatyński was the first scholar to hold the annual Gladstein Visiting Professorship when he came to UConn in 2000, setting the stage for more than 20 other preeminent scholars and researchers to follow him in the subsequent years.
“Wiktor Osiatyński was a founding figure who played a critical role in creating the Human Rights Institute,” says HRI Director Kathryn Libal, a UConn associate professor of social work and human rights.
“He worked closely with faculty and students to build the Institute into one of the leading interdisciplinary programs on human rights,” she adds. “It is fitting to honor his legacy through the endowment of a chair during our 20th anniversary year.”