Press Release
Feb 22, 2021

Academy Announces Largest Gift in its History, $10 Million Gift from David Rubenstein


The Gift Will Fund Two Academy Initiatives:

– New building to house Academy records and make them more accessible

– The Rubenstein Fund for American Institutions to advance democracy and justice


Cambridge, MA | February 22, 2021 — Today, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences announced the largest donation in its 241-year history: business leader, philanthropist, and Academy Member David M. Rubenstein has pledged a transformative gift of $10 million that will help preserve the nation’s past and strengthen the future of American democracy.

The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The Academy’s members include artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors and its work is focused on developing nonpartisan research and recommendations to address pressing challenges.

“While the Academy’s roots are as deep as the nation’s, we are a forward-looking organization dedicated to realizing a future that is better for individuals and the institutions that help us flourish,” said David Oxtoby, President of the Academy. “David Rubenstein’s generosity reflects his deep appreciation for the arc of history and his abiding interest in strengthening democracy and justice in America.”

“The Academy’s founders believed that our experiment in democracy would face challenges warranting deep and sustained responses. They have been proven right ever since, perhaps especially now,” said David M. Rubenstein, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of The Carlyle Group, the global investment firm he formed in 1987. “This gift helps preserve the legacy of the nation’s founding both in letter -- literally the writings of some of the most influential minds in history -- and in spirit, supporting the ongoing effort that is required to build toward an ever more just and perfect union.”

The gift provides for a new addition to the Academy building in Cambridge, MA, that will help preserve the records of the Academy and make them more accessible. The Academy’s archival collections include papers, books, artwork, and audiovisual materials that capture the history of the institution and illuminate the intellectual history of the United States. From the acceptance letters of Academy members -- including George Washington, Maria Mitchell, and Ralph Bunche -- to formative discussions at the dawn of the nuclear era, to recordings of Robert Frost reciting and discussing his poems, the Archives reflect the pursuit of knowledge across disciplines and centuries. 

The gift is equally generous to Academy initiatives that advance democracy and justice in America. A new Rubenstein Fund for American Institutions will support nonpartisan research, recommendations, advocacy, and partnerships to strengthen the nation’s civic, economic, and judicial systems and encourage participation in our democratic processes. The Fund will support two current initiatives and one emerging project, all led by Academy members who engage experts and citizens across the country in exploring and addressing the issues:

  • The Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, in partnership with champion organizations and individuals from across the country, is leading a multi-year plan to advance the 31 recommendations of its landmark report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing Democracy for the 21st Century, by 2026, the 250th anniversary of the nation.
  • Throughout the process that resulted in Our Common Purpose, Commission leaders heard from people across the country that the nation’s widening economic inequity was intertwined with the functioning and dysfunction of our political institutions and civic communities. A new project, now in development, will focus on the economic divide. and its implications for the country.
  • The Academy’s Making Justice Accessible projects seek to understand and address the challenge of providing legal services for millions of Americans who go without civil justice in matters such as family law, housing, healthcare, and veteran’s rights. The next phase of the work is to advance clear solutions to measure and close the justice gap.

“This transformative gift from David Rubenstein reaffirms the Academy’s founding mission to be of service to the nation and direct our resources toward the advancement of the common good,” said Nancy Andrews, Chair of the American Academy’s Board of Directors. “We are deeply grateful, and we are excited to put this extraordinary philanthropy to work.”

This gift also serves as a cornerstone of the $100 million Campaign for the Academy and Its Future, cochaired by David M. Rubenstein and Louise Bryson.




Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Danielle Allen, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric P. Liu