David Rubenstein gives $10 million to Kennedy Center

The Baltimore-born philanthropist earmarked half the funds for the National Symphony Orchestra

  • Baltimorean David M. Rubenstein donated $10 million to the Kennedy Center on Sept. 22.
Baltimorean David M. Rubenstein donated $10 million to the… (Associated Press )
September 22, 2010|By Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore-born billionaire and philanthropist David Rubenstein pledged $10 million Wednesday to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, with half of those funds earmarked for the National Symphony Orchestra.

The five-year gift will include $5 million to the symphony in connection with the arrival of the group's new music director, Christoph Eschenbach; $2.5 million for a major annual cultural program at the institution; and $1.5 million for a program that brings the arts into classrooms around the U.S. The remaining $1 million will be used to support such major events as the center's annual honors gala and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Rubenstein became chairman of the center's board of directors in May. In a news release, he said that his gifts are meant to ensure "that the Kennedy Center and National Symphony Orchestra remain world class organizations. We are fortunate to have them as our leaders."

Kennedy Center President Michael M. Kaiser expressed the hope that Rubenstein's contribution will spur other potential donors.

"David's gift demonstrates both his leadership and his commitment to the performing arts, and is characteristic of the way he approaches philosophy," Kaiser said in the release. "He gives in ways that support programs in which he truly believes, and that inspire others to do likewise."

Rubenstein, the son of a postal carrier and a homemaker, grew up in a blue-collar enclave in Northwest Baltimore. He fed his voracious appetite for knowledge with weekly visits to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, where he always checked out 12 books, the maximum allowed at the time.

Three years after graduating from law school, Rubenstein served as a domestic policy adviser to former President Jimmy Carter. Rubenstein became a businessman after Carter lost his 1980 re-election bid.

In 1987, Rubenstein founded a private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, that manages more than $90 billion in assets.

Rubenstein, who ranks at No. 374 on Forbes' 2010 list of the world's billionaires, is pursuing a third career: philanthropy. He is among those who have heeded investor Warren Buffett's call to donate at least half of one's net worth (Forbes estimates Rubenstein's at $2.5 billion) to charity.

During an interview in June, Rubenstein told The Baltimore Sun: "I'm 60 now. The average white man my age can expect to live to age 81, and before I die, I'd like to make an impact on the world. I'd like to have been truly transformative in at least one area."

In the past, Rubenstein has given $3.5 million to the Kennedy Center and $5 million to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. In 2007, he bought the last remaining copy of the Magna Carta in private hands for $21.3 million and loaned to the National Archives.


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