David Rubenstein, JD’73, renews ’transformative’ gift to Law School

David M. Rubenstein, JD’73, has renewed his commitment to the University of Chicago Law School’s Rubenstein Scholars Program with a $13 million gift that will provide full-tuition scholarships for up to 60 students in the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

The program, which provides three-year scholarships for about 10 percent of the Law School, was established in 2010 with an initial gift of $10 million from Rubenstein, a University trustee and the co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm. Rubenstein renewed his commitment in 2013 and 2016 with $10 million and $13 million gifts respectively. The new gift brings his support for the program to $46 million.

"The Rubenstein Scholars Program has been an extraordinary boon to the Law School, and our faculty has been dazzled by the impact," said Thomas J. Miles, dean of the Law School and the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Law and Economics. "The Rubenstein Scholars Program continues to attract students who have outstanding academic credentials and who excel in our classrooms and clinics, and now its graduates are becoming outstanding leaders in the legal profession and beyond."

"The impact of David’s leadership and generosity cannot be overstated," Miles added. "We are deeply grateful for the gift of this program, which has not only met, but exceeded, our expectations. In addition, David’s philanthropy has inspired others, playing a tremendous role in the success of our fundraising campaign."

Five classes of Rubenstein Scholars have graduated from the Law School since the program began. The freedom from student-loan debt has allowed many to consider a wider variety of career paths.

"The Rubenstein Scholarship has been a transformative gift that has enabled us to continue to recruit the best and the brightest to the Law School," said Ann Perry, the Law School’s dean of admissions and financial aid. "Not only has it brought us 20 Rubenstein Scholars a year since the Class of 2014, but it has also allowed us to expand our scholarship resources and help an even greater number of students. We are so grateful for David’s continued generosity, which has helped make the Law School a reality for so many."

For Aimee Brown, JD’14, the Rubenstein Scholarship enabled her to focus on clerkships and government work after graduation. She clerked on the D.C. Circuit and worked as trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice for the Federal Programs Branch and, later, as an attorney-adviser for the Office of Legal Counsel at the DOJ before starting a Supreme Court clerkship.

"Because of the scholarship, I was able to accept lower-paying jobs that gave me meaningful experience (including in court) very early on," Brown said. "That experience helped me figure out the aspects of legal work that I enjoy the most and focus more on them. I feel incredibly fortunate that I have been able to make career decisions based on my overall goals rather than on financial considerations."

’Grateful to be able to pay it forward’

Rubenstein had a similar experience because of a full-tuition scholarship he received to attend the Law School.

Two years after graduating, he was able to leave his law firm job to serve in government. He worked as chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments before joining Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign, and, between 1977 and 1981, served as Carter’s deputy assistant for domestic policy. Later, Rubenstein practiced law in Washington, D.C., before co-founding The Carlyle Group in 1987. Since then, Carlyle has grown to managing $220 billion in assets. It has more than 1,650 employees and 31 offices across six continents.

"The connections and experiences I gained at the Law School put me on a career path that would not have been possible had I not received a scholarship," Rubenstein said in 2016. "I’m indebted to the Law School for what it has given to me, and I am grateful to be able to pay it forward."

During a visit in 2017, Rubenstein recalled his time at the Law School. His fellow classmates were intimidatingly smart, he told students: both Sr. Lect. Frank Easterbrook, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and Douglas Ginsburg, senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, were in his class. He also remembered Richard Posner, then in his second year of teaching at the Law School, lecturing on the economic theory of torts.

"The faculty was an extraordinary faculty," Rubenstein said. "We had some of the most famous professors in the legal world-when you’re reading a casebook that’s written by the professor teaching you, you realize you’re learning from the best."

Rubenstein joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2007. He also serves as chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, chairman emeritus of The Brookings Institution and of Duke University, chair of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. Rubenstein was an original signer of the Giving Pledge, an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will.

He has fostered the development of "patriotic philanthropy" with gifts to the National Park Service, the National Archives (to which he permanently loaned a copy of the Magna Carta), the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian. He also is the host of  The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations  on Bloomberg TV and PBS. 

--This story first appeared on the Law School website.

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