Smithsonian completes $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, elects David Rubenstein as chairman

Philanthropist and financier David M. Rubenstein will become chairman of the Smithsonian Institution’s Board of Regents next year, succeeding John McCarter, who must step down at the end of his three-year term.

The Regents also announced the Smithsonian has reached the $1.5 billion goal for its first joint fundraising campaign a year ahead of schedule. Regent Barbara M. Barrett said the campaign, the largest undertaken by an American cultural institutions, is  now $60 million over goal. Launchced in 2011, it will continue until the end of 2017 as planned.

“It’s an extraordinary demonstration of American generosity,” Barrett said at Monday’s annual public meeting of the Smithsonian’s governing board. “Now we need to think about what’s next.”

[Smithsonian’s new fundraising strategy: collect collectively]

In addition to Rubenstein, the Regents elected AOL co-founder Steve Case as vice-chairman, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and chief executive Risa J. Lavizzo-Mourey as the third member of the executive committee. They will begin their three-year terms on Jan. 31, 2017.

“It is truly an honor to pass the torch to such a dedicated team,” said McCarter, who will remain on the board.

Rubenstein is the co-founder of the Carlyle Group and a major supporter of cultural programs in the District. He joined the Smithsonian board in 2009 and co-chairs the Smithsonian’s joint fundraising campaign. He also serves as chairman of the boards of the Kennedy Center and Duke University, and is a board member of Lincoln Center and the National Gallery of Art.

“I love the museums and I love the learning. It keeps me young,” Rubenstein said after the meeting.

Rubenstein was matter-of-fact when asked how he will have the time for another leadership position. “I don’t play golf, I don’t drink alcohol so I’m not going to bars. At this point in my life, I only do the things I want to do. This isn’t work. This is pleasurable.”

The board also announced Robert Kogod and Shirley Ann Jackson will step down next year when their terms expire. Both have served two, six-year terms, the most allowed under the Smithsonian’s term limits.

Case outlined plans being developed for the Arts and Industries Building, including the opening of an American Latino gallery, an innovation center and a conference center that he described as “a merger of the 92nd Street Y and the World Economic Program.” The Smithsonian has hired a design firm to begin work on the gallery and center and it has assembled a committee to explore programs.

[Smithsonian hired director for long-dormant Arts and Industries Building]

“It’s early in the process, but we are excited about a re-energized, revitalized and reanimated Arts and Industries Building,” he said.

Located next to the Castle on the southern edge of The Mall, the Arts and Industries Building is the second oldest Smithsonian structure. Several members of Congress have pushed for it as a possible site for an American Latino Museum, but a bill formally authorizing the museum hasn’t gained traction in years.

More than 430,000 donations have been made in the first six-years, including 135,000 donations totaling $320 million to the newly-opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. Some 397,000 donors have given $100 or less, and 40 percent are first-time donors to the Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian raised $295 million during fiscal 2016, setting a record for the most successful year, Barrett said. The campaign has added $366 million to the Smithsonian’s endowment, funded 52 curatorial positions and created six new education centers inside various museums.

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