I Want to be a Rudin, Too

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Beth Rudin DeWoody and Debbie BancroftThere are few families as closely connected to New York and the well-being of the city and its residents as the Rudins. What’s even more special is the fact that their foundation was created, and is still run, by their ever-expanding family. And they don’t fight. While Beth (shown with me, at right) has long been one of my best friends, and I am, admittedly, a “Rudin wannabe,” I hadn’t asked her about her family philanthropy ’til now…


So, what were May and Samuel Rudin thinking when they created their foundation?

My grandparents created the May and Samuel Rudin Foundation as a charitable trust in 1975, to last for the next 20 years. The grandkids took it over, with input from our fathers, Lew and Jack, and at the end of the 20 years, we made a decision to keep it going. My brother Billy supported (and supports) the Met, the Battery, NYU, the Association for a Better New York, the Partnership for NYC and more. I supported and support the Whitney and BAM, the Hammer Museum, the Police Foundation, the New School and Parsons. My cousin Madeline focused on the Children’s Storefront and the Cooper Hewitt, Kathy was interested in ARF and animal welfare, and Eric’s causes are the Drawing Center and the Central Park Conservancy, and he was an early supporter of Gay Men’s Health Crisis.


Wasn’t there some controversy about the name Gay Men’s Health Crisis?

Yes. There was some discussion about using “gay” in the title, but we all decided to stay with it, and the support of our foundation made it easier to raise funds from other foundations. That’s the advantage of being a family foundation: we avoid the politics and move swiftly and decisively.


Didn’t this spawn another AIDS outreach?

Kathy heard about a woman who rode her bike, delivering food to housebound AIDS victims. The family got together, bought her a van, and created a fundraiser, Art and Objects, with Heather Watts, Jock Soto and Jed Johnson that raised almost $500,000. That was the beginning of God’s Love We Deliver. Blaine Trump came to the event and won a lunch with David Dinkins, and now she is the vice-chair of the board.


I feel idle and unworthy. Who are the people that inspire you in philanthropy today?

Aggie Gund’s work with Studio in a School is remarkable. Bette Midler is so devoted to her [New York] Restoration Project and does an amazing job. I’ll never forget how inspiring Judy Peabody’s work with AIDS victims was. And Ruth Schuman’s Publicolor is a terrific organization.


What makes a great fundraiser?

A tight, short, informative program. New Yorkers for Children has the kids it benefits speak, and it’s great. Publicolor let’s you paint with kids. It’s so unstuffy and fun.



I’ve seen Stevie Wonder, Beach Boys, Hugh Jackman. Failing that level, don’t do.


Black tie?

It may be on the wane, but women still want to dress up.


What’s next?

All of our kids are continuing our work, and starting their own. My daughter, Kyle, has brought ProjectArt to LA, where they work with public libraries to offer art programs that schools don’t now. My son, Carlton, is part of the Next Generation for UNICEF and is joining them in South Africa for a field trip. My husband, Firooz, and I serve on the board of the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.


Is there something else I should know?

The Whitney is honoring me this year.


As well we all should.


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