A Catalytic Gift

$15 million Rubenstein donation will spark entrepreneurship programs.


Like most start-up ventures, Duke’s two-year-old Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative has grand ambitions, which fall nothing short of remaking the university’s entrepreneurial culture. In May, the initiative received another critical piece to realizing those ambitions: a significant investment of capital.

Duke trustee David M. Rubenstein ’70 has donated $15 million to serve as a catalyst for the initiative, which is working to build a stronger set of programs for entrepreneurial-minded students, faculty members, and alumni. The gift will help support  the development of new courses, internships, research projects, and other programs focused on entrepreneurship and innovation.

“David Rubenstein’s gift will establish a pathway through which ideas gain traction and are transformed into action for an evolving global economy that’s driven by innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Kimberly Jenkins ’76, M.Ed. ’77, Ph.D. ’80, senior adviser to the president and provost for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Launched in October 2010, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative has created and enhanced programs that support undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in their development of innovations and new ventures. As part of a pilot program this summer, the initiative placed ten undergraduates in internships with start-up companies in Silicon Valley. Studentsalso are working with Duke alumni at the business incubator Dogpatch Labs, as well as with DUhatch, an on-campus incubator located in the Pratt School of Engineering.

Rubenstein’s support of entrepreneurship comes just nine months after he gave Duke University Libraries $13.6 million to support the newly renamed David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. He is also a major benefactor of the Sanford School of Public Policy and gave the lead gift to build the school’s Rubenstein Hall. Outside of Duke, he serves as the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, president of the Economic Club of Washington, vice chair of the Brookings Institution, and board member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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