David Rubenstein, JD’73, renews scholarship program with $10 million gift

Renewing a commitment to providing full-tuition scholarships that he made three years ago, David M. Rubenstein, JD’73, has given the University of Chicago Law School an additional $10 million to continue the Rubenstein Scholars Program.

Rubenstein, a University Trustee, started the program in 2010 with an initial $10 million gift to fund up to 60 full-tuition scholarships in three consecutive Law School graduating classes. With his latest gift, approximately 10 percent of all students from the Classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019 also will be Rubenstein Scholars. 

“The University of Chicago is committed to bringing together a wide variety of perspectives and experiences, which enriches the exchange of ideas at the core of our mission,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “David’s generous gift plays a key role in achieving that goal at the Law School, by providing opportunities to outstanding students without regard to their means. We are deeply grateful that he is building on this important initiative.”

Rubenstein’s initial gift was the largest contribution from an individual in the Law School’s history. The program has been successful in both attracting the very best students to the Law School and relieving the substantial burden of debt those students would face without the scholarship assistance, thus freeing them to pursue any career path they choose.

“David’s generosity is absolutely extraordinary, and his gift has been transformative,” said Michael H. Schill, Dean of the Law School. “Three years ago, when David proposed this idea, we all hoped that it would enable us to attract the top law school applicants in the nation to Chicago. With three years of experience under our belt, I can say, without hesitation, that it has succeeded magnificently.

“The Rubenstein Scholars are extraordinary young men and women. They have performed just as we hoped at the Law School and are already on the path toward becoming leaders in law, public service and business.”

Rubenstein said, “Our goal was to attract the best students in the country to Chicago Law, and we believe we have done that. When scholars graduate without debt, they are free to apply their skills and labor to pursuits they might otherwise have bypassed, such as public service. I am excited to see the great things these students do in their careers over time.”

Rubenstein, who came from modest means, understands the value and impact of full-tuition scholarships. The offer of such a scholarship persuaded him to choose the University of Chicago Law School for his legal education. That scholarship enabled him to graduate debt-free, and that freedom allowed him to step away from law firm practice two years after graduation to pursue his interest in politics.

He worked as Chief Counsel to a Senate subcommittee, then joined Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. Carter’s win led to Rubenstein having a West Wing office at the age of 27. Rubenstein said he would not have been able to do his political work had he been burdened with debt.

Rubenstein then became co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset manager. He joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2007. He serves as vice chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, vice chairman of The Brookings Institution, regent of the Smithsonian Institution and president of The Economic Club of Washington, D.C.

“Our Rubenstein Scholars were among the very brightest students in the country when they arrived at the Law School,” said Schill, “and they have received the very best legal education available anywhere in the world. That is a potent combination for creating the next generation of world-changers like David Rubenstein.”

Over the past four years, the Law School’s investment in need- and merit-based scholarships has almost tripled. Complementing Rubenstein’s gift, the Law School recently received a gift of $4 million from Debra Cafaro, chairman and chief executive officer of Ventas, Inc. to establish full-tuition, need-based scholarships at the Law School.

Schill said that these gifts benefit not just the scholarship recipients, but the whole UChicago Law School community.

“With the infusion of scholarship assistance made possible by these wonderful acts of philanthropy, the Law School is now able to stretch its student assistance further than ever before,” he said.