Duke University trustee David M. Rubenstein is giving $1.9 million to Jewish Life at Duke to expand programming, fund building renovations and enhance the college experience for Jewish students.
Most of the gift -- $1.5 million -- will fund new initiatives and staff positions for a Jewish student population whose needs and interests are changing, said Rebecca Simons, the center's director. New programs are expected to reflect an increasing student demand for information and resources related to globalization, leadership and community, she said.
The gift also includes $400,000 for renovations to the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, which is on Campus Drive near the Swift Avenue intersection. The 15-year-old building will undergo renovations this summer; the work is expected to conclude by the start of the fall semester.
"When I came to Duke in the mid-1960s, Jewish life was almost invisible," said Rubenstein, a 1970 Duke graduate and current chair of the university's board of trustees. "Now it is a vibrant and essential part of the university that is growing every year. It is my hope that Jewish students and their families will think of Duke as a destination for a great education and a positive Jewish experience."
Roughly 10 to 12 percent of Duke's student population is Jewish, including about 700 undergraduates, Simons said. She plans a new awareness campaign to get more of those students steadily involved in the center. She also hopes to do more outreach to prospective students considering Duke.
"Some people see Duke as a small, private university in the South with a beautiful chapel," Simons said. "It isn't always obvious that Jewish students can come and have an amazing experience and a very supportive Jewish experience."
The gift is Rubenstein's second to Jewish Life at Duke and supports Duke Forward, the university's seven-year $3.25 billion fundraising campaign that ends June 2017. Rubenstein, who is one of the three co-chairs of Duke Forward, previously established a $1 million endowment that helps with the center’s operating costs.
His other gifts to the university include more than $12 million to the Sanford School of Public Policy, $15 million to the Innovation & Entrepreneurship initiative, $10 million to the Duke Athletics Department and $13.6 million to Duke University Libraries, the largest commitment ever made to the library system.
On Friday, Rubenstein will give a talk at the Freeman Center that will focus on preparing for life after college.
"He is really invested in seeing a strong Jewish presence at Duke and wants our students to have a great experience," Simons said. "He's extremely thoughtful and enthusiastic about the Freeman Center and our potential for the future."
A Baltimore native, Rubenstein is co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. He is also an active civic leader and serves on numerous boards, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Kennedy Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Rubenstein and his wife, Alice Rogoff Rubenstein, have three children.