One of the highlights of the university's academic year was the presentation of the first Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights on September 24, 2003 to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Created by the Dodd Research Center, the prize and the event generated wide press coverage as a major new component of the university's human rights program.
The Dodd Prize would not have been possible without the generous support of philanthropist and businessman John W. Kluge. Born in Germany in 1914, Kluge immigrated to the United States in 1922 and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from Columbia University and served in U.S. Army Intelligence during World War II. Kluge developed his business empire initially by investing in the food business, and later by purchasing the radio and television stations that ultimately became Metromedia Incorporated, one of the world's largest communications conglomerates, with interests in radio, television, motion pictures, cellular telephones and the travel industry.
Kluge's philanthropic interests range from an endowment to support minority students at Columbia University to a gift of more than $60 million to the Library of Congress to establish a John W. Kluge Center and support a Kluge Prize in Human Sciences. He has donated land and his estate to the University of Virginia.
Senator Thomas J. Dodd and John Kluge came to know each other well through their common interest in the media, and his support for the Dodd Research Center precedes the completion of the building in 1995. His initial gift, made during the capital campaign for the center, established an endowment for the Dodd Prize, and his subsequent additions to that fund allowed the center and the university to award the first Dodd Prize in 2003. The prize reflects Senator Thomas Dodd's deep convictions regarding the primacy of the rule of law, the dignity of every human being, and the responsibility to assist those who have been denied equal opportunity.