Campus News

Peter Buck '52, H'08: Gem of a Philanthropist

Story posted August 26, 2009

When Peter Buck '52, H'08, learned that one of the world's rarest rubies was available, he had to have it. The billionaire physicist and Subway sandwich chain co-founder spent an undisclosed fortune to obtain the bauble.

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Peter Buck '52, H'08

And then he gave it away.

Buck, a 2008 honorary degree recipient, donated it to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in memory of his late wife, Carmen Lúcia Buck.

The story of the Burmese ruby, said to be size of a large throat lozenge and displayed within a stone's throw of the Hope Diamond, is detailed in the August 13, 2009, Washington Post article, "The Buck Largesse Starts Here."

Buck and Bowdoin
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Evening rendering of the northwest corner of the new Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness.

Peter Buck's generosity also extends to his alma mater, making possible the new Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness, to be completed fall 2009.

Read about the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness.

That gift was made in 2004; this past July the Smithsonian announced that Buck has donated a 1785 letter written by George Washington to a friend.

From The Washington Post:

As the subject of gifting is touched upon, Buck says, "Just don't say anything like, 'And this is Dr. Buck's way of giving back.' I never stole anything! So I'm not giving anything back!"

This amused-from-a-distance perspective on philanthropy and wealth is one that seems to come naturally to Buck, a man who has lived in the same house for 17 years and has a 13-year-old car parked in his driveway. (Though the Village People did perform at his 70th birthday party.)

Read the article and see photos of the Carmen Lúcia Ruby and the Washington letter.

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