University benefactor John Kluge dies at 95

Officials recall Kluge


A great benefactor and friend to the University, John Kluge died Tuesday at the age of 95. A world-renowned businessman who Forbes magazine named one of the country's most generous philanthropists, Kluge donated more than $63 million to the University during his lifetime.

He earned his wealth in media and advertising, and sold his collection of TV stations to 20th Century Fox in 1986. That same year, Forbes listed Kluge as the second-richest man in America.

University Historian Sandy Gilliam said Kluge could be placed among those at the forefront of philanthropy to the University for his many donations including funding for the children's hospital, several major gifts to the Medical School and an extensive collection of Australian Aboriginal artwork, some of which is now on display in Newcomb Hall.

"John Kluge was a truly great man," Provost Arthur Garson said in a University press release. "Everything he did was huge: entrepreneurship, philanthropy and telling stories of his life. He lived in so many places simultaneously, but each received his full attention - as did everyone within chatting distance. His was tough love, giving and requiring a great deal, with supreme satisfaction by those with whom he dealt."

Kluge and his wife Tussi also were heavily involved in a variety of projects for the University.

Nursing School Dean Dorrie Fontaine said Kluge and his wife helped plan the Compassionate Care initiative for the community and the University, which educates physicians and nurses together about how to provide effective and equitable care for the elderly.

Another major project Kluge made possible is the Morven Farm, part of Kluge's $45 million Albemarle County estate, which he donated to the University in 2001 as the second largest gift in University history. This estate was the subject of three seminar classes in the spring that explored how to use its agricultural, environmental and historical resources to accomplish the goals of community outreach, scholarship and education.

Stewart Gamage, director of Morven programs, said Kluge "never settled for second rate in anything" and set a high bar for projects, wanting them to change the fundamental experience of the University. He saw these projects as an opportunity to extend the University's reputation.

Friends and acquaintances of Kluge said he had a warm, engaging personality.

"He just had an amazing sense of humor and told beautiful stories of success and survival," Fontaine said, adding that she will greatly miss him.

President Teresa A. Sullivan described Kluge as "one of the most charming and engaging individuals I have ever met" in the press release. "I was struck by his keen mind, his inquisitive nature and his extraordinary commitment to higher education."

Others who knew Kluge well remembered him as an inspiration to the University.

"He was a remarkable individual, a brilliant self-made man whose generosity knew few bounds," University Rector John Wynne said in the press release. "He was always interested in change and looking for ways to make things better. John's lifelong efforts to help mankind - especially through his giving to higher education - have been extraordinary."

His was a story of a life well lived, Gamage said. "I guess we were all just hoping there would be a little more time."

Kluge is survived by his wife and three children.

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