A former government official and lawyer, David Rubenstein co-founded The Carlyle Group in 1987. Since then, Carlyle has grown into one of the world’s largest and most successful private investment firms today, managing more than $260 billion from 40 offices around the world. At present, Rubenstein serves as its co-executive chairman, in addition to his role as chairman for numerous non-profits, including: the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; the National Gallery of Art; the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.; and, as of 2022, the University of Chicago's Board of Trustees. Rubenstein started his career in private law. Later, he served as chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and subsequently joined the Carter Administration as deputy assistant to the President for domestic policy from 1977 to 1981. In addition to being a billionaire, Rubenstein is also one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, and was among the initial 40 individuals who pledged to donate more than half of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charities as part of The Giving Pledge. To date, he has provided to the U.S. government long-term loans of his rare copies of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th Amendment, among other significant documents of national importance. For his many years of public service, he is a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy and the MoMA’s David Rockefeller Award, among numerous other awards.

Rubenstein, a native of Baltimore, enrolled at Duke University after graduating from the college preparatory high school Baltimore City College, at the time an all-male school. At Duke, he excelled academically, as evinced by the fact that he was elected Phi Beta Kappa. In 1970, Rubenstein received his bachelor's degree from Duke. The future owner of a copy of the Magna Carta graduated magna cum laude.

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Since leaving Duke, Rubenstein has been a tireless advocate for the university’s students, faculty, and alumni. So far, he's donated more than $100 million to support the Duke Libraries, the arts, and financial aid, as well as other causes. His first large gift to Duke was in 2002, when he donated $5 million to Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy. That generosity led to the naming of Rubenstein Hall. More recently, in 2017, he donated $20 million to endow scholarships for first-generation, low-income students.

Additionally, Rubenstein served on the Duke University Board of Trustees from 2005-2013 and then as Chair from 2013-2017. Two years after stepping down, university leaders announced that Rubenstein was to receive the school’s highest honor: the Duke University Medal. “Generations of Duke students to come will certainly be familiar with the name of one distinguished alumnus: David Rubenstein," said Duke President Vincent Price in 2019. "The Duke of today is a much more vibrant community thanks to his efforts, and I am delighted to honor him with the University Medal.”