During a capital campaign between 2010 and 2013, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association raised over $100,000,000 to build, equip, and endow The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. This was an incredible feat given that occurred against the backdrop of a bad economy.
Early in 2010, under the leadership of Chairman Fred W. Smith, the Reynolds Foundation jump-started the library capital campaign with a pledge to donate $38,000,000. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation was already the most generous donor in the history of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association with a gift of $24,000,000 to build the Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center, which opened in 2006.
The Reynolds Foundation’s generous pledge was quickly bolstered by two other major gifts, each secured in early 2010. Richard & Helen DeVos provided $10,000,000 to support the construction of a 7,300-square-foot scholars’ residence on the library grounds. This is called the De Vos House.
John & Adrienne Mars designated a $10,000,000 gift to design and outfit the rare books vault, in which original Washington books and objects will be kept. David Rubenstein’s gift in February of 2013 pushed the campaign past its goal with a $10,000,000 gift.
The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association announced on February 24, 2013, that on George Washington’s 281st birthday the philanthropist David M. Rubenstein pledged $10,000,000. “With this one extraordinarily generous act of philanthropy, Mr. Rubenstein's ‘birthday gift’ to General Washington has allowed us to exceed our capital campaign goal of $100 million ahead of schedule,” said Curt Viebranz, President of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “We hope that this will inspire others to step forward to support this initiative before the campaign concludes.”
"Like George Washington, David Rubenstein is a true patriot and an inspiring leader, and we are honored that his legacy will be a part of this Library,” said Ann Bookout, Regent (chairwoman) of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which owns and operates George Washington’s estate. “The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is truly honored and most grateful to have Mr. Rubenstein at our side as we fight the good fight for George Washington as an example of the strong and effective leadership that every nation deserves.”
In recognition of his generosity, The Fred W. Smith National Library’s largest meeting space will be named the David M. Rubenstein Leadership Hall. It will house lectures, seminars, and other functions for both civilian and military governmental leaders, not-for-profits, and corporations, as well as scholars, educators, and students. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association stated, “The fully-wired facility will also allow for the broadcasting of programs to broader audiences around the globe.”
The gift also directs $4,000,000 toward the establishment of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscripts Endowment, which will enable The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington to grow and sustain its collection of original volumes and documents. Rubenstein has also provided seed funding for a new initiative, the Mount Vernon Fellows Program, which will bring college students from across the U.S. to Mount Vernon to study Washington’s lessons of leadership. The program is designed to identify and nurture a next generation of leaders.
A Mount Vernon supporter and a pillar of the Washington, D.C. philanthropic community, Rubenstein is Co-Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group ("Global Alternative Asset Management"), which is based in Washington, D.C. Rubenstein is also Chairman of the Kennedy Center, a member of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, and President of the Economic Club of Washington. He is also on the Boards of Directors or Trustees of Duke University (of which he is Vice Chair), the Brookings Institution (of which he is Vice Chair), the Council on Foreign Relations (of which he is Vice Chair), and the Institute for Advanced Study.
“I hope that Americans will always keep in mind how much George Washington meant to the founding of this great nation, and how his examples of sterling character and unbiased leadership provide a timeless example for leaders of today and the future,” said Rubenstein. “Mount Vernon has accepted a growing responsibility for reaching and teaching people – on all fronts, of all ages, and from all walks of life. No other organization has the unique resources and the determination to accept this formidable challenge, and perhaps my gift may catalyze others who are in a position to help.” Rubenstein’s recent philanthropic activities include major gifts to the Kennedy Center, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institution.
On Thursday, July 11, 2013, the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association announced had exceeded its $100,000,000 capital campaign goal by raising $106,400,000 in three years.
“This new Library will help us to maintain and advance George Washington’s timeless relevance in our fast-changing world,” said Ann Bookout, the Regent (chairwoman) of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. “We are grateful to the thousands of supporters who answered our appeal, and who share our belief that Washington’s example of strong character and effective leadership remains more important than ever.”
When the capital campaign officially closed on June 30, 2013, over 7,000 individuals, foundations, and corporations had pledged contributions totaling $106,400,000 to support the effort. “This Library is filled with extraordinary stories of philanthropy,” said Curt Viebranz, President & C.E.O. of George Washington’s Mount Vernon. “We are humbled and honored that so many people responded to this appeal, which only further validates the work that the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has taken on board to give George Washington the library he himself never had a chance to build.”
The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association stated, “While much of the money raised has been directed to construction costs, the funds will also endow Library outreach programs, including residential fellowships for scholars, teacher and educator training and support, distance learning programs, and will enable further preservation and conservation of books and manuscripts. The funds will also support the Library building’s maintenance, ensuring that no additional financial commitments hinder the estate’s ongoing operations.”