David Rubenstein, Trinity ‘70 and chair of the Board of Trustees, visited campus Tuesday for a talk in the Fuqua School of Business.
Rubenstein, co-founder and CEO of the Carlyle Group, one of the largest private equity investment companies in the world, has made sizable donations to the University throughout the years, including $25 million to help fund the construction of Duke's new $50-million, 71,000-square foot Arts Center. During a conversation with Bill Boulding, dean of the Fuqua School of Business, Rubenstein discussed his career and philanthropy efforts in front of a crowd of more than a hundred people.
“We need to have more business people to be seen as socially-aware," Rubenstein said. "More business people being publicly involved, and not just worrying about profit, and trying to think about what they actually do for society.”
He explained that many people have negative connotations of business, which he said in part results from the lack of positive business role models.
"There are many people in the U.S. and in the world who don't think business is a good social device," he said. "It's very unfortunate that there are very few people in the business world right now that are seen as role models. Sure we have one [Warren] Buffett, he is 86 years old and is in great health, but he won't be around forever."
However, Rubenstein noted that he has worked to better society through his donations. To Duke, he has given $13.6 million to make renovations to Perkins Library possible, $10 million to Duke athletics and $10 million to the Sanford School of Public Policy, among gifts.
"I feel I have an obligation to give back to the country because I came from moderate circumstances," he said. "I feel lucky that I got to where I am."
He explained that he has strived to remain nonpartisan throughout his career. He refuses to donate money to politicians, and hosts events to promote American history and culture. For example, he arranges dinners with members of Congress and history professors.
When asked about his success, Rubenstein mentioned several factors, such as high education, which he said is extremely important to him.
“If humans can use their brains in good ways, it can make human life better," he said. "What could be better than higher education to teach people things and inspire them to create new great things?”
He noted that the keys to create good business and lead an organization are to remain humble, know how to communicate and be able to pass down the skills of the business's founder to future employees.
"In Carlyle's case, we try to set the leaders as role models in what we do and giving our time and putting dedication into the business, and trying not be arrogant," Rubenstein said. "Hopefully the culture will transfer through the organization."
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Rubenstein will step down from the chair of the Board of Trustees when his term ends in July 2017.