Partners in Business and in Philanthropy: Behind A Big Human Rights Gift At This School

The University of Connecticut recently received a total of $4 million, $2 million of which came from UConn alumnus Gary Gladstein and his wife Phyllis, towards the school's Human Rights Institute. The gift requires the UConn Foundation to raise an additional $2 million in matching funds, and would give the Institute a $6 million endowment and provide scholarships to undergraduates majoring in human rights. 

Gladstein received a B.A. from UConn in 1966 and an MBA from Columbia University. He's been on the board of UConn Foundation and has supported the Human Rights Institute in the past. Alumni loyalty is definitely playing a role here, but what drew Gladstein to human rights in the first place?

Well, for starters, Gladstein has been a longtime business partner of billionaire George Soros, one of America's richest individuals. Gladstein worked for Soros Fund Management in the 1980s and 1990s, serving as managing director and partner, and now currently works as a senior consultant for the fund. Soros, of course, has been at the forefront of promoting democratic ideals for decades through his Open Society Foundations.

It's easy to see how Soros' own philanthropic largesse could influence others in close proximity to him and it would be wise for fundraisers to not only to keep an eye on well-known champions of certain causes, but also on others in their orbit who may also have these same interests. (Of course, the ideology of bosses and their right hand men don't always track, as in the case of James Simons and Robert Mercer.) 

Related: Meet the New Best Friend of Conservative Policy Groups: Robert Mercer

Soros, by the way, is the other donor involved with this UConn gift and his Open Society Foundations has pledged a $2 million challenge grant to support UConn's Human Rights Institute. Here's what Soros had to say about the gift: “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... 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.”

America's 16th richest man, though, is only part of this story.

Gladstein is also trustee of at least two Gladstein family charitable vehicles: the smaller Gladstein Family Foundation which has recently bankrolled a Jewish day school in New Jersey, and the larger Marsha Lilien Gladstein Foundation, which has recently supported University of Connecticut Foundation. The more substantial vehicle bears the name of Gladstein's late first wife, Marsha, who worked as a kindergarten teacher for a time and had a passion for human rights and education. 

Besides naming a charity after her, the Gladstein family's philanthropy has also brought about the Marsha Lilien Gladstein Human Rights Fund, and the Marsha Lilien Visiting Professor in Human Rights at UConn. The Gladsteins have also created the Gladstein Professorship of Information Technology and Innovation, and the Judi and Gary Gladstein Distinguished Chair in Human Rights.