Human Rights Institute receives $4 million grant, more on the way


Staff of the Uconn Human Rights Institute met in their office in the Dodd Center on Tues., Jan. 20. The institute recently received their largest donation of $4 million, and will potentially receive $2 million more. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

UConn alumnus Gary Gladstein ’66 and his wife, Dr. Phyllis Gladstein, along with philanthropist George Soros, have donated $4 million to the University of Connecticut’s Human Rights Institute in an effort to provide scholarships, internships, fellowships, and programs for undergraduates majoring in human rights.

Soros’ half of the donation comes on the premise that the UConn Foundation match his gift, external relations writer Grace Merritt said. If the UConn Foundation matches Soros’ $2 million, that will bring the total donation to $6 million.

“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,” UConn President Susan Herbst said. “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 potential $6 million donation will be the largest-ever human rights contribution to the Institute. In the meantime, the $4 million donation holds that record.

“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.”

The $6 million endowment will help the institute provide more opportunities for the increasing student body. The Institute has 80 students majoring and 55 students minoring in human rights, making it the largest number of undergraduates studying human rights within the U.S., Merritt said. As a leading force of human rights education, the Institute currently accommodates 35 graduate certificate participants as well.

Gladstein, Soros’ longtime friend and business partner, has a history of financially supporting the Institute. Soros is responsible for increasing Gladstein’s awareness on the necessity of human rights, Merritt 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.
— Gary Gladstien ’66

“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.”

The donation will be used to fund scholarships and fellowships as well as to support internships within the U.S. and other countries, associate professor and director Kathryn Libal said. The grant will also create a more feasible opportunity for students interested in the Institute’s study abroad programs, such as its Cape Town and London locations.

“The Soros funding is targeted towards undergraduate human rights majors. The funds from Gary and Phyllis Gladstein will be used in a variety of ways, such as to support dissertation writing grants, conferences or visiting lecturers,” Libal said.

The Institute is constantly fundraising to broaden the opportunities it has for undergraduates. One program benefitted by the fundraising is the Scholars-at-Risk Initiative, which has had scholars in residence from Iran, Syria, Mexico and Ethiopa over the last six years.

“Vice Provost Daniel Weiner and head of UConn Foundation Joshua Newton are very active in fundraising externally all over the country,” Libal said. “The developing donations around the campaign require that the Institute maintains strong programming and builds its reputation”.

The human rights major offered by UConn is a co-major which requires the student to pursue an additional major along with human rights. The alum of the Human Rights Institute have gone on to obtain humanitarian positions at renowned programs, such as NO/AIDS Task Force, Center for Talented Youth at John Hopkins University, and Executive Assistant to the President at Freedom House.

Richard Monroy is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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