Library of Congress To Get $60M

Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Every year a world-famed scholar will get a million-dollar prize as a result of a $60 million dollar gift, the largest in the 200-year-history of the Library of Congress, officials said Thursday.

It will be called the John W. Kluge Prize in Human Sciences, after the billionaire donor and founder of Metromedia, said Jill Brett, a press officer for the library. By ``human sciences'' are meant such specialties as history, sociology and anthropology, which she pointed out are not among those honored by the Nobel prizes.

Librarian of Congress James Billington scheduled a news conference Thursday to give details of creation of the center endorsed by Kluge's gift.

``We're trying to celebrate and facilitate not just the life of the mind, but also the role of the life of the mind in the life of the republic,'' Billington told The New York Times.

The center will be located in the library's Jefferson Building and will have endowed chairs in a number of fields. A $1 million annual prize for lifetime scholarly achievement also will be created.

``We must do more to bridge existing information gaps between academia and government,'' said Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who is vice chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library. ``Mr. Kluge's generous gift to the Library of Congress will help us do just that.''

Last month, entrepreneur and philanthropist Kenneth Behring gave the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History $80 million, its largest gift ever.

Kluge, 86, is founder of global telecommunications company Metromedia Inc. He was listed in Forbes magazine as being worth $13 billion.

A German immigrant who came to America when he was 8, Kluge toiled his way through school selling shoes, clothes and stationery, according to a 1966 Metromedia biography. In 1946 he bought WGAY radio station in Silver Spring, Md., for $15,000.

He was an Army intelligence captain in World War II. He started Metromedia in 1960.

Kluge has given to other institutions, including the University of Virginia medical school and Florida International University in Miami. He helped raise $48 million in private money to fund the Library of Congress' electronic enterprise, the National Digital Library. Congress appropriated an additional $15 million. Over the years, he has given $13 million of his own money to the library, including $5 million to start the digital library.