David Rubenstein, philanthropist and co-founder of the Carlyle Group private equity firm, is donating $10 million to the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association announced Sunday.
The 45,000-square-foot building will house Washington’s books and papers and include a replica of the first president’s personal library. The gift, which comes just after the 281st anniversary of Washington’s birth Friday, exceeds the $100 million fundraising goal for the library, scheduled to open in September on the grounds of the former president’s home.
At an annual George Washington birthday celebration at Mount Vernon Saturday, Rubenstein remembered visiting Mount Vernon as a child and later taking his son there. His gift is part of what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” “[I try] to give back to things that remind people of American history,” Rubenstein said. In addition to finishing the library’s capital campaign, his gift will help buy Washington artifacts and memorabilia. He says it’s important to remember what Washington did. “After he was general in the Revolutionary War, he stepped down. He said, ‘No, let the civilians rule.’ And after his second term as president, he could have had a third, but he said ‘No.’ ”
Rubenstein, who is Jewish, says he was also moved by Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, R.I., regarded as his most prominent pronouncement of religious tolerance.
Curt Viebranz, Mount Vernon’s president and chief executive officer, called the gift a validation of the association’s work and a great way to end the fundraising campaign ahead of schedule. Rubenstein “shares our interest in ensuring that these rare Washington and founding era documents are there for the people,” he says.
The largest meeting space in the library will be named for Rubenstein, and $4 million will be used to establish a rare book and manuscripts endowment.