Press Release

PAFA Docent Gifts Nearly $8M From Her Estate for Travel Scholarships

PHILADELPHIA (April 15, 2019) -- The late Estelle Barenbaum Rubens, a longtime Museum docent, has given nearly $8 million to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), school officials have announced.

The bequest gift from Rubens’ estate will establish a two-part scholarship: the first part will be an award to pay for travel and travel-related expenses for students to visit Europe during the summer following their third year of study. The second part of the scholarship will provide full tuition for students during their following two semesters at the Academy.

The Raymond D. and Estelle Rubens Travel Scholarship Fund will be merit-based and students will receive $5,000 each for the summer travel. A minimum of three scholarships will be awarded each year.

Eight students are anticipated to receive the scholarship at PAFA’s 214th Commencement on May 10, 2019. The students will travel abroad this summer. In addition to the new scholarship, PAFA currently offers seven other travel scholarship opportunities for students.

Rubens passed away on January 25, 2018, at the age of 88. She was born in Philadelphia and lived her entire life there. She spent about 15 years as a docent at PAFA, guiding adult, college, and student visitors on tours of PAFA’s permanent collection and special exhibitions.

Rubens is remembered for her ease in connecting with “everyone she met at the museum” through stories and humor, said Monica Zimmerman, PAFA’s Director of Museum Education, who managed the docent program when Rubens was at PAFA.

“Estelle Rubens was the kind of volunteer docent every museum dreams of having as part of their family,” Zimmerman said. “She loved both the collection and the audience equally and always brought a fun—and funky—style to the experiences she created in the gallery for our visitors. She believed that everyone could have a personal relationship with art. And she was hands-down the best-dressed museum guide I’ve ever worked with!”

PAFA CEO and President David R. Brigham said Rubens’ gift is especially meaningful because it comes from a volunteer who devoted herself to the museum and served as an ambassador to PAFA.

“We are incredibly honored and grateful to Estelle Rubens for this exceptionally generous gift,” Brigham said. “These travel scholarships will change the lives of PAFA student-artists, broadening their perspectives and bringing them in direct contact with some of the greatest works of art ever created. These experiences will provide a lifetime of inspiration.”

Estelle and her late husband Raymond Rubens, who was an attorney, were longtime PAFA museum members and supporters. Rubens also bequeathed six works of art by Alexander Calder, Red Grooms, Al Hirschfeld, Earl Horter, Alice Neel, and Larry Rivers.

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.