The Yale Law School celebrated last month a $30 million gift it received last December — the largest donation in its history — with a series of panel discussions and lectures.
Law School alumnus Oscar M. Ruebhausen LAW ’37 left the gift to the school when he died last year at the age of 92. He specified in his will that he wanted to support at least three specific programs at the law school, in addition to a general Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund, which a faculty committee will apportion in the future. Before his death, Ruebhausen had spoken to former Dean of Yale Law School Guido Calabresi to design specific programs to fund, said David Robinson, executor of Ruebhausen’s estate.
Ruebenhausen’s gift will support the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Professorship of Law, which has been awarded to corporate law expert Roberta Romano, in addition to a visiting fellows program that has brought a host of renowned legal figures to the Law School, including Israel Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Jon O. Newman ’56, senior judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
“The thought was to have people who have made an extraordinary contribution in scholarship, public service and judging, because Oscar did,” Law School Dean Harold Koh said. “Yale Law School stands for excellence in scholarship and teaching, a close knit faculty and staff, public service, and close ties to the profession of law. Oscar’s magnificent gift will help us achieve this.”
One portion of the money will go to the Zelia P. Ruebhausen Student Fund, named in honor of Ruebhousen’s wife, which supports various student organizations.
“We at the Law School are tremendously grateful for this gift from Oscar and his wife Zelia,” Associate Dean Mark Templeton said. “We believe it will have a great and positive impact on the experiences of students, the scholarship of faculty and others in the University and the wider world.”
Ruebhausen was president of the Bar Association of the City of New York, an adviser to former New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and a presiding partner of a large business law firm. A Dartmouth College graduate and native of New York City, Ruebhausen graduated from the Yale Law School with distinction.
Ruebhausen was a Democrat and supporter of the New Deal, an unpopular position at Dartmouth during the early 1930s, Robinson said. At Yale Law School, he said, Ruebhausen felt he had found an intellectual home for the first time.
“Mr. Ruebhausen was a man who was deeply interested in social justice, who wanted to make the Yale Law School … even better in terms of social justice and international atmosphere,” Robinson said. “His commitment to that formed a great part of his very successful life.”
During World War II, Ruebhausen acted as general counsel for the National Office of Scientific Research and Development, which supervised projects including atomic bomb and radar development.
Ruebhausen and his wife were both involved in many civic activities. Zelia worked for the League of Women Voters and Ruebhausen was the chair of the Russell Sage and Greenwall Foundation boards. Ruebhausen and Zelia, who passed away about 14 years ago, had no children.
“[Ruebhausen] was a belt and suspenders person … he was a lawyer who thought through all his options but was intimidating, especially to people he interviewed,” Robinson said. “He was a wonderful man and he had a great sense of humor.”