The donation by David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, is the largest unrestricted gift ever given to the Kennedy School and ranks among the largest overall donations it has received.
“This gift shows an important commitment to providing support for our own graduates who may not live in the biggest houses but are doing the most important work for our society,” Summers said when he introduced Rubenstein before the crowd of 300 students, faculty and administrators gathered in the school’s Forum.
And in exchange for Rubenstein’s gift, the Kennedy School will rename its One Eliot Street building after him.
Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood said the donation offers unprecedented opportunities—and peace of mind.
“This gift puts me in a position now where I don’t always have to automatically say ‘No’ to things that students and faculty request,” Ellwood said yesterday. “It is a great service for the future of this school, which is a more important place than ever during such a scary time in the world.”
Rubenstein, who is the father of Alexandra N. Rubenstein ’07, said that he saw the gift as “a down-payment” and said that “many more things could be done in the future.”
Ellwood said that he would use the gift “to challenge others to donate” but he did not announce any official plans for how to spend the $10 million. He said that part of it would go toward attaching cash prizes to KSG achievement awards for faculty and students, as well as funding salaries for alums working in the public sector.
Although Rubenstein is not an alumnus of the Kennedy School, he said that he always “felt part of the K-School family” because over the years so many of his friends and colleagues have come out of the school, including faculty members David Gergen, Richard Darman, Elaine Kamarck and Graham Allison. “It really is a place that trains our future leaders.”
Rubenstein said that another reason he gave the gift was that he regretted his lack of formal training in public policy before working for the government under the Carter Administration as deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.
“I am not a Kennedy School graduate, but I wish I were,” he said yesterday at the Forum. “When I was working in the White House, I was 27 years old and I didn’t know what I was doing at all.”
He added that the gift is “a re-payment for letting me serve my country for four years.”
Rubenstein began brainstorming the parameters of the gift during a meeting with Summers at a economics conference in Davos, Switzerland, last winter.
Although he gave the gift without restrictions, Rubenstein has set aside $1 million of the gift exclusively for a “loan forgiveness program” that would encourage KSG students to pursue low-paying careers in civic service and government.
But the $1 million is not enough to fully fund the Loan Reimbursement Assistance Program (LRAP), which pays off loans for KSG graduates who choose to work in the public sector.
“This gift is a tremendous opportunity for us,” said Ellwood at a reception with wine, shrimp, crab and spinach finger-foods following the announcement. “But it is not enough for us to rescind all the cuts from LRAP, or to return to the exact same format of the program.”