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In Honor of Retired Political Scientist Richard Rubin

Richard Rubin and Keith Reeves

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Sarah Willie-LeBreton shared the following message with the campus community on February 4, 2022:

Dear Friends,

With deep sadness, I write to share the news that retired political science and public policy professor and beloved mentor Richard L. Rubin died Tuesday, Jan. 25, at his home in Purchase, N.Y. He was 92.

Richard joined Swarthmore’s political science faculty in 1979 and primarily taught classes on mass media and American politics; the intersection of race, ethnicity, and public policy; and the political culture of American Jews. He served for 10 years as the first director of the College’s Public Policy Program, as well as on the Committee of Minority and Black Affairs. His published works included Party Dynamics: The Democratic Coalition and the Politics of Change (1976) and Press, Party, and Presidency (1981).

Over his nearly 30-year tenure, Richard’s generosity, friendship, and guidance changed the lives of countless students, spurred by a concept in Judaism to “repair the world.”

One of Richard’s students, Professor of Political Science Keith Reeves ’88, described the political science concept of leveraging social capital, the mechanisms that allow a person to get ahead. “Richard was that leveraging component,” he says. “He lived out his belief that it was his responsibility to move society forward and to embrace pluralism and diversity.”

Keith and other former students, in reflecting on their experience, wanted to honor Richard and his legacy of kindness and community building. So they designed a program that duplicated what he did for them.

The Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program connects first-year students and sophomores from underrepresented backgrounds with faculty or staff mentors, as well as with internship and research opportunities. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 500 students have benefited from their experience as Rubin Scholars, including 102 current students from all four classes. The program has also funded 10-week summer internships for 125 students.

Dean of First-Year Students Karen Henry ’87, the program’s current director, says that Richard would routinely come to campus at least twice a year to meet with students, and that he also anonymously supported summer classes for any student who might have needed one. “As a dean, I am extremely grateful to have been able to provide that support,” she says.

I am not alone in believing that Richard lived an extraordinary life, and was an extraordinary man. I invite you to read more about Richard and his life below, written by his family.


Sarah Willie-LeBreton
Provost and Dean of the Faculty

In Honor of Retired Political Scientist Richard Rubin

Born and raised in New York City, Richard graduated from the Fieldston School (1947), Brown University (1951), and after a successful business career in textiles, earned his Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University (1972). It was at Brown, during “freshman week,” that Richard met his future wife, Helene. They married in 1950 before their senior year at Brown, and raised five children together.

In 1979 Richard became a professor of political science at Swarthmore College, where he was a beloved mentor to many. He authored numerous papers and several books, including most recently, Jewish in America: Living George Washington’s Promise (2016). Richard was also very active in the contemporary art world with his brothers William, chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, and Lawrence, former president of the Knoedler Gallery, with whom he partnered in numerous ventures in the field.

Richard was the founding president of the Dedalus Foundation, which was established by his dear friend, the artist Robert Motherwell. Through Richard’s early leadership, Dedalus is recognized as one of the most esteemed of artist-endowed foundations.

Richard rubin with students

Professor Richard Rubin with students, 1981.

A member since 1956 of Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., Richard was an avid competitive golfer and student of the game. He was club champion in 1984.

Predeceased by his brothers and his son Jeffrey, Richard is survived by his wife of 71 years, Helene; his children Lynn, Steven (Karen), Kathy, and Laurie (Morgan); nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Richard was a man of high ideals and generosity, and a fierce advocate for fairness and tolerance. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in his memory to the Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program, which provides guidance and financial support for students from underserved communities. Please make checks payable to Swarthmore College and include Richard Rubin’s name on the memo line of the check, or online at (select “other” and enter Richard Rubin Scholar Mentoring Program).

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