Lessons from Buck: Trustee David Rubenstien evoked the spirit of James B. Duke during the keynote address at the annual Founders' Day ceremony in Duke Chapel. Credit: Megan Moor
Lessons from Buck: Trustee David Rubenstien evoked the spirit of James B. Duke during the keynote address at the annual Founders' Day ceremony in Duke Chapel. Credit: Megan Moor

‘Let Them Chase Us’

Rubenstein channels James B. Duke on Founders’ Day.
November 5, 2012

David M. Rubenstein ’70 was seeking a little inspiration. What he found, he told a packed Duke Chapel on Founders’ Day, was a message from beyond: a hopeful vision for Duke’s prolonged success.

In his keynote address at the Founders’ Day celebration, Rubenstein, vice chair of Duke’s board of trustees and a renowned philanthropist, admitted he’d gotten a supernatural assist in thinking about Duke’s future. He’d gone into the chapel to visit the sarcophagus of James B. Duke, where, he said, he’d received an email message from the founder’s spirit, suggesting Duke’s greatest strength was its distinctive character.

“The world does not need two Harvards or two Stanfords or two Princetons,” said Rubenstein, “reading” from James B. Duke. “It needs one Duke. We do not need to chase these schools. Let these schools—and others—chase us.”

Rubenstein said Duke’s distinctiveness begins with an education that is designed to do more than funnel students into professional careers. “Duke needs to make certain it educates its students in how they need to think for themselves, how to reason, how to adapt to a changing world, how to communicate effectively, how to solve problems, how to lead, how to innovate and create, and how to improve their community, country, and world,” he said.

Founders’ Day saw the presentation of the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service to trustee emerita Rebecca Trent Kirkland ’64, M.D. ’68 and longtime faculty member and former vice provost Judith L. Ruderman Ph.D. ’76. Kirkland, the greatgranddaughter of Washington Duke, served as a professor and administrator at Baylor College of Medicine, where she helped to reshape the school’s medical education. Ruderman directed the Duke Office of Continuing Education and University Summer Session for twelve years and served as vice provost for academic and administrative services from 1995 to 2009. She is currently a visiting professor of English at Duke.

The weekend also included the official launch of Duke’s $3.25 billion capital campaign, “Duke Forward: Partnering for the Future.” About 700 donors and university officials attended an event September 29 to inaugurate the campaign and elaborate on its strategic goals. Gifts and pledges during the campaign’s two-year silent phase have already raised nearly 40 percent of the campaign’s goal. “The generosity and vision of our supporters have propelled our rise to the very top tier of universities,” President Richard H. Brodhead said during the launch. “Through Duke Forward, we will capitalize on our university’s spirit of innovation and partnership to train the leaders and problem-solvers our world requires.”