Gift to transform Duke library

Duke receives $13.6 million

Staff WriterAugust 18, 2011 

  • The library donation isn't David M. Rubenstein's first instance of generosity with Duke University.

    In 2009, he donated $5.75 million to Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, and in 2002, he gave $5 million toward the completion of Sanford's Rubenstein Hall.

A $13.6 million donation from billionaire financier David M. Rubenstein will complete a decade-long renovation of Duke University Libraries, where the philanthropic donor worked when he was a student at the school.

Duke said Wednesday that the gift is the largest ever to the school's libraries, and it will be used for the modernization of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library.

Rubenstein, a native of Baltimore and the co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, graduated from Duke in 1970, then received a law degree from the University of Chicago.

With the money, Duke hopes to transform the 1928 West Campus library building and its 1948 addition into a state-of-the-art research facility.

Officials plan to rename the renovated special library the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Construction is slated to begin in 2012 and will last for several years.

Deborah Jakubs, university librarian and vice provost for library affairs, said the planned renovations go beyond brick-and-mortar work.

"It's a complete reconceptualization of a special collections library," Jakubs said. "Much more focused on public spaces and better conditions for our distinctive collections."

World-class library

Having a named library makes it more distinctive and enhances Duke's academic and intellectual reputation, Jakubs added.

"It's about time this happened at Duke," she said. "It creates an institution that's commensurate with the level of our collections, and it puts us in the league with Beinecke at Yale, Houghton at Harvard and Bancroft at Berkeley."

Rubenstein is a signatory of The Giving Pledge, an effort started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to encourage the world's most wealthy people to give a majority of their money to charity.

In his letter to The Giving Pledge, Rubenstein noted that he was raised in a blue-collar family in Baltimore and relied on scholarship money to attend college and law school.

Rubenstein practiced law and served as a domestic policy advisor for the Carter administration before he and his partners founded The Carlyle Group, a global financial services firm.

Now 61 and living in Bethesda, Md., Rubenstein told The Giving Pledge that he became interested in philanthropy when he turned 54, and that he intends to give away at least 50 percent of his wealth before he dies.

Forbes magazine estimates Rubenstein's wealth at $2.6 billion, and ranks him 440 on their list of global billionaires (128 in the U.S. ranking).

The Washington Post has estimated that Rubenstein gave away more than $26.6 million in 2010. He's rated 40th on the Philanthropy 50, a list of the nation's biggest donors.

He shares his treasures

In 2007, Rubenstein bought the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta from Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot for $21.3 million, then loaned it to the National Archives in Washington so that it could be viewed by the public.

Rubenstein also has purchased and loaned out a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Rubenstein, a Duke University trustee, serves on numerous boards, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

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