The largest gift in Duke Library's history. As only Fact Checker can report it.

✔✔✔ Fellow Dukies. Good day. FC here. Probative. Provocative. Pro-Duke.

Refreshing too. The following is not a press release.

Raising money from David Rubenstein is like shooting fish in a barrel. The multi-billionaire has promised to give half of all his loot away, part of The Giving Pledge organized by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and this magna cum laude alum is the new vice chair of Duke's Board of Trustees.

He also sits on 20 or 30 other boards, according to his own count, including being incoming chair of the Kennedy Center in Washington and vice chair (and head of the fund-raising committee) for Lincoln Center in New York. In fact anyone visiting Lincoln Center will probably stop by the Rubenstein Atrium across the street, to buy tickets and use the luxury bathrooms!

Yes, he's stretched thin. He even missed the Duke Trustee meeting at Commencement when he was elevated to vice chair.

Already on campus, we have Rubenstein Hall, part of the then-nascent Sanford School of Public Policy. He got that cheap in 2002, for only $5 million whereas most universities of our stature would require a donation to finance all of any named building. The dedication was noteworthy: former Secretary of State Colin Powell flew in to speak (we believe for a hefty fee), and Rubenstein himself thanked the anonymous admissions officer who admitted him -- and helped him meet the $2,000 annual tuition with a financial aid package -- forty years earlier. One part of the package: Rubenstein worked in the library.

In 2009, when Sanford wanted to become a full School, the highest ranking division of the university, its $40 million fund-raising effort was languishing -- until Rubenstein unexpectedly stood and tossed in the final $5.75 million.

So this time it's the library, $13.6 million. And no, we have no idea why he didn't round it off like to $14 million.

As a thank you, the official press release informs us that the Trustees are expected (trust me, the deal is sealed) to attach the donors name: The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. There are 350,000 printed volumes, more than 20 million items in manuscript and archival collections. Ancient papyri to records of advertising agencies trying to convince Americans that smoking was healthy. Yes healthy, thank you J Walter Thompson advertising, which has its archives at Duke.

Plus archival collections related to Women's History and Culture, African and African American History, the History of Medicine; Sales, Advertising and Marketing History to begin the list.

University Librarian and Vice Provost Deborah Jakubs: “What is distinctive about a school is in its special collections and archives” because all schools can subscribe to on-line databases and thus be equal.

This is the largest gift in the history of Duke Libraries, and yes, we did sell Bostock his memorial cheap, and Lilly too, and Perkins even cheaper. Duke simply has got to raise the prices on its buildings -- and its named professorships, because we are done giving fund-raisers high marks for lackluster performance.

In case you are wondering where this leaves the beautiful Biddle Rare Book room, the answer is, right where it is. Biddle houses part of the Rubenstein collection, as we understand it. The entrance to the primary collection itself is behind the Biddle Room.

Duke PR distributed a picture showing some outside touch-ups, with a new, small plaza at the entrance.

✔ Rubenstein has a particular interest in things like manuscripts and rare books. He is the person, after all, who prevented a copy of Magna Carta that had been in American hands from being sold back to a British citizen. His winning bid: $21.3 million.

Having already given the National Archives in Washington $13.5 million for a new visitor center (sound familiar, more bathrooms) and gallery, the next step seemed logical. He's made a perpetual loan of the Magna Carta to the Archives, were you can go to see it.

While Rubenstein may own Magna Carta, there is some doubt that he has read it (it is in Latin, circa 1215 AD) or understood it. It's the king being challenged, an end to total authority and recognition that ordinary people have rights.

Duke Trustee Rubenstein hasn't lived up to that at all.

FC has tried for months and months, e-mail after e-mail, phone call after phone call, to find out the membership of the Trustees special committee on China, which Rubenstein chairs. We wondered too if students and faculty were represented, as they are on other Trustee committees, and just by asking around if anyone heard of a representative, we conclude the answer is no.

There were tougher questions for King David (Rubenstein) as well. After the Fuqua faculty shot down the first two degree-granting programs planned for Kunshan, which was on June 1, we added an inquiry: how the faculty could look at the same data as Rubenstein's committee and conclude there was no way all this would fall together financially, while the Trustee committee endorsed the proposals. We wanted to know what due dilgence had preceded the endorsement.

Silence. Surprising no one.

✔✔ Rubenstein's wealth derives from the Carlyle Group, a private equity buy-out group that operates at the intersection of wealth, unbridled ambition, and Washington power. He was one of the co-founders. If you want a good introduction, fish out Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 911" which tears Carlyle apart while opposing the re-election of George W. Bush. Bush Senior has been a director of the Group.

Speaking at Harvard Business School, Rubenstein said, “I analogize [private equity] to sex...You realize there were certain things you shouldn’t do, but the urge is there and you can’t resist.”

Not everything has always gone right: when Mark Zuckerberg was still a Harvard student tinkering with the idea of Facebook, Rubenstein declined to meet him. He says this is his greatest regret.

✔✔ And finally, we wonder where Rubenstein's gift fits into the larger picture at Duke. We are past due a major fundraising drive -- something on the order of $4 billion. And gifts like this would typically not be announced until we were in the "quiet phase" when about one-third of all the money is raised.

The only thing we know about a fund-raising drive is that President Brodhead briefed the Priorities Committee on April 12, 2010. Correct, 2010. His silence is deafening.

Thank you as always for reading FC and loving Duke!

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