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A Trip to Remember Leads to a Gift of a Global Experience
While a School of Architecture student, Todd B. Rubin ’04 spent two semesters with SU Abroad in the city of Florence. He discovered the art and architecture of the Renaissance city, but his experience also left him with a broader sense of purpose.
“Being able to live in Florence and travel throughout Europe expanded my own personal horizons. While I was learning about culture, I was also experiencing incredible global architecture,” said Rubin, who was the featured speaker for the 2015 Phanstiel Lecture Thursday, March 26. “It made such an impact on my life that I wanted to figure out a way for others to have this same experience.”
Rubin, along with the Rubin Family Foundation, established the Rubin Global Design Studio. The trip is a unique opportunity for architecture students to experience the cultural and political conditions that produce a city with quality public space, public housing and sustainability policies. The program took students to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2012; Baku, Azerbaijan, in 2013; and Taipei, Taiwan, in 2014.
Rubin spoke about the program and why philanthropy is important to him. The Phanstiel Lecture, part of the Phanstiel Scholars program, is held during Philanthropy Week to highlight someone who has a deep personal commitment to making a difference for others.
Rubin, who also serves on the School of Architecture’s Advisory Board and the University’s San Francisco Regional Council, is vice president of The Republic of Tea, a family-owned and -operated company based in California.
Generation Orange Award
Members of the Student Philanthropy Council hosted the event; Chancellor and President Kent Syverud introduced Rubin and also presented him with the Syracuse University’s Generation Orange Award, which recognizes achievement and potential in alumni who have recently graduated.
“Todd’s vision brings the world to Syracuse and Syracuse to the world,” Chancellor Syverud said.
Rubin appreciated being able to speak during Philanthropy Week, which “provides me an opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of giving back to Syracuse—a University that has meant so much to my life.”
“The vision of Syracuse is academic excellence, through which we seek to enrich lives not only on campus but to impact and change lives, communities and the world,” Rubin said. “In my case, philanthropy means giving back to help students here have an opportunity for greater success.”
The idea for the architecture studio developed through an experience his parents had developed, the Rubin-Israel Experience, to sponsor Jewish professionals to travel to Israel to give them a better understanding of their heritage. His parents, in turn, had been inspired by the Taglit-Birthright Israel trip, an educational trip to Israel for young Jewish adults that Rubin had taken through Syracuse Hillel in 2000.
“Through all my travels, with my family, as well as at Syracuse, I thought, ‘what better way is there for an architecture student to acquire greater understanding than to travel the world to see how global architects past and present think and design,’” Rubin said.
“With this in mind, along with the Rubin Family Foundation, I established the Rubin Global Studio in 2012,” Rubin said.
The Flame Towers
Through this experience, students are inspired to design and challenged by their exposure to architecture and culture abroad, Rubin said. Trips have included seeing one of the largest skyscrapers in the world in Taipei, the Turning Torso (the tallest skyscraper in the Nordic countries) and the Flame Towers in Azerbaijan.
Rubin has also joined the students on the trips each year. “One caveat, though: I would not be responsible for any homework,” Rubin said.
The feedback on the program has been positive and Rubin also noted an email from one student, who told him, “‘I can honestly say that without even the slightest doubt the trip to Taiwan was the best experience I have had in my life so far. … I learned so much about the city, as well as the people. I met a lot of students that I’m so happy to call my friends. At the risk of sounding somewhat cheesy, you’ve inspired me to give back to Syracuse University when I get older in any way that I possibly can.’”
Rubin challenged others to make a difference by contributing to a cause either through monetary donations or a gift of time or expertise.
“I am philanthropic because I want to help students at Syracuse University reach their potential by providing experiences that will expand their horizons,” Rubin said. “We cannot do everything at once but we can make small differences over time. With this spirit of shared philanthropy, together we’ll make the world a better place to live.”
The event concluded with the presentation of the annual Orange Circle Awards, which recognize altruistic members of the Syracuse University community who have done extraordinary things in service to others. This year’s Orange Circle recipients were Ruth Schlesinger Sherman ’73, chair of the Friends of Leadership and Public Service High School; and the founders of Style Lottery, Timi Komonibo G’15 with Nieves Alvarez G’14 and Alexis Morris G’15.