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Where's John Kluge (and His Wallet?)

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Where's John Kluge (and His Wallet)? When the new Virginia Civil Rights Memorial is unveiled in Capitol Square July 21, Rita Moseley, 61, will be there with her new college degree.

Moseley's degree in business administration comes courtesy of the state's Brown v. Board of Education scholarship program started in 2004. The idea is to pay the tuition of black students, now grown and in some cases retired, whose schools in Charlottesville, Norfolk, Prince Edward and Warren counties were closed for five years in the name of Massive Resistance after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling.

The scholarship fund, however, still has some unfinished business. In 2004, former broadcasting tycoon John Kluge, a wealthy donor living in Palm Beach, Fla., encouraged the state to add $1 million to its initial appropriation of $50,000. Kluge, who until recently lived in Charlottesville, promised to match the state increase with a $1 million gift of his own. The state appropriated its share, but Kluge's million has yet to materialize.

"There's been some efforts to reach out to him," Gov. Tim Kaine says. "Maybe we just don't know the right people to get to him."

Kluge, 93, was out of the country, but his business partner, Stu Subotnick, says Kluge has never reneged on a promised gift.

"Maybe something between the state and he did not get properly communicated," Subotnick says.

Meanwhile, frustration has been simmering as Kluge continues his philanthropy elsewhere. At a meeting of the Brown v. Board scholarship commission last year, a staffer shared a copy of USA Today reporting Kluge's $400 million donation to Columbia University -- the fourth largest gift ever given to an American university.

"Maybe we'll have to get the FBI," joked former commission chairman and former Sen. Benjamin J. Lambert III at the time.

Some say the fuss over the Kluge donation is beside the point. Since the fund was initiated, only $463,000 of the $1.05 million has been given to 49 adult students. When the program was getting started, Moseley and others lobbied the General Assembly to allow descendants of the students denied their education 50 years ago to apply for the money, to no avail.

"That much is never going to be eaten up by my classmates," Moseley says. Many have already retired from their careers, and for those still interested, the scholarship money can only be redeemed at Virginia schools. "A lot are out of state because these schools closed and they did not return," she says.

 

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