Back in 1981, Gary Rubens (’22 Psych.) was accepted into Washington State University but he couldn’t afford to attend. Decades later, Rubens not only made his own college goals a reality, he has also helped many others get a college degree.

Rubens entered the workforce instead of attending WSU, using blue collar mechanical skills he’d picked up from vocational and technical college courses. He eventually built a successful online lighting supply company that was bought by home improvement retail giant Lowe’s.

Gary Rubens holds up a Washington State University shirt in front of WSU Pullman's Martin Stadium
Gary Rubens (Courtesy Gary Rubens)

Despite his family’s financial struggles growing up, Rubens’s mother found ways to be generous, inspiring her son to follow the same.

Now a successful investor and philanthropist, Rubens has helped thousands of financially challenged Washington residents afford college through his family foundation and giving to College Success Foundation scholarships.

Since 2015, he has also given more than $31 million to the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship⁠—a public-private partnership in which the state matches donated dollars to support financially disadvantaged students⁠—making him one of the program’s biggest supporters.

While he was supporting scholarships, Rubens got the idea of returning to get his own degree. He enrolled in WSU Global Campus and after several years of juggling his busy schedule and classes, Rubens became a Cougar alum.

Rubens crossed the Beasley Coliseum stage at the Pullman campus commencement in May and several of his fellow grads who have received scholarship help from his foundation were right there with him.


Read the full story about Rubens (WSU Insider, May 2022)