Chair of the Board of Trustees David Rubenstein, Trinity '70, spoke to students, faculty and administrators in the Freeman Center this past Friday, the day after he announced a $1.9 million donation to Jewish life on campus.Rubenstein spoke about the trajectory of his life, including what he hopes to do next. A prominent donor to the University, he noted his hope to continue his philanthropic efforts.
“I made more money than I could spend,” Rubenstein said. “I do not really need all of it in the afterlife.”
Rubenstein began with a short summary of his life, describing his early life and his undergraduate education at Duke followed by law school at the University of Chicago. He briefly talked about working as a policy adviser for President Jimmy Carter and how that led to the birth of the Carlyle Group, Rubenstein’s private equity and asset management firm. The company started with $5 million and now manages $170 billion of assets.
He plans to spend the coming years doing what he loves and what makes him happy—running his company and using his money towards philanthropy to give back to those who helped him.
This means giving not only to Duke, but to "patriotic philanthropy" as well, he said.
“My purchases of historical documents like the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Magna Carta are down payments on my obligation to this country,” Rubenstein noted.
He has donated these documents to the government for public display, with the copy of the Emancipation Proclamation residing in the Oval Office and the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives Building.
Rubenstein ended by challenging students in the audience to focus on how they can make the world they live in a better place and to think about what they can do with their education to achieve that.
“You do not need to be extremely wealthy to do philanthropy," Rubenstein said. "It is a Greek word that means time and energy.”
Students said they were inspired by Rubenstein’s talk.
“Rubenstein’s speech today shows his commitment to Jewish life, Duke, and it is great that we have a Jewish chair of the Board of Trustees," junior Jill Rubin said. "It shows the impact that Mr. Rubenstein has had on campus, as well as the impact the Jewish community has had. He sets a really good example of success for us.”
Administrators were also humbled by the talk.
“I am glad to have had the opportunity to learn about his trajectory, and I appreciated his humility and the simplicity of his message in what we each can do to lead a fortunate life,” said Chandra Guinn, Director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.