Campus & Community

Harvard calls on former Secretary of Treasury

3 min read
Robert Rubin

Robert E. Rubin will be the principal speaker at the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard’s 350th Commencement on Thursday, June 7.

Rubin, a member of the Harvard College Class of 1960, served as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States from 1995 to 1999. Among the most widely admired public officials of recent times, he is regarded as one of the pivotal figures in shaping the global economy of the 1990s, and in guiding the U.S. economy through an exceptional period of robust and sustained growth.

“Bob Rubin has been a rare public servant, someone who has worked in a quiet, understated, yet supremely effective way to make one of the world’s most complicated and important jobs seem almost easy,” said President Neil L. Rudenstine. “He brought a combination of extraordinary intellect, experience, and judgment to the task of guiding the development of a genuinely global economy during a critical period in world affairs. He is a person of eloquence and remarkable insight, and he cares deeply about how economics and public policy affect the lives of people around the globe.”

“We are delighted that Robert Rubin has agreed to be this year’s Commencement speaker,” said Scott Abell, president of the Harvard Alumni Association. “He is widely admired, both within the Harvard community and around the world, for his statesmanship, diplomacy, and leadership in international affairs. Few government officials in our time have been held in higher regard, or have had a more significant and positive impact within their spheres of responsibility.

“It is a fortuitous and very happy coincidence that Mr. Rubin accepted our invitation as the Commencement speaker several months before Lawrence Summers, his successor at Treasury, was chosen to become the next president of Harvard,” Abell added. “Having them together on the same stage in June will mark just one of the many happy reunions we hope to celebrate during Commencement week.”

Born in New York City in 1938, Rubin received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1960, graduating summa cum laude in economics. He did graduate work at the London School of Economics, then went to Yale Law School, from which he received an LL.B. in 1964.

In 1966, Rubin joined Goldman Sachs & Co., one of the world’s leading investment firms. His decades-long career at the firm culminated in his appointment as vice chairman and co-chief operating officer from 1987 to 1990, then as co-senior partner and co-chairman from 1990 to 1992.

In 1993, he left Wall Street for Washington to serve as assistant to the president for economic policy and, in that capacity, to head the National Economic Council. Two years later, in January 1995, he was named Secretary of the Treasury, and in that role functioned as senior economic adviser to the president and chief financial officer of the federal government.

Highlights of Rubin’s tenure as Secretary of the Treasury included efforts directed at balancing the federal budget, restoring the strength of the dollar, fostering a more open trade policy, promoting global financial reform, developing strategic responses to financial crises in different parts of the globe, and introducing inflation-indexed securities.

Rubin is noted, among other things, for a long-standing interest in revitalizing inner cities and bringing their residents into the economic mainstream. As Treasury Secretary, he promoted such policies as expanding the availability of capital intended to create housing and jobs in inner cities, and creating “empowerment zones” and “enterprise communities” designed to reinvigorate urban areas.

After stepping down as Treasury Secretary in 1999, Rubin joined Citigroup, the international financial services firm, where he serves as chairman of the executive committee of the board of directors.