My Giving Story: David Lawrence Rabiner

David Lawrence Rabiner Ph.D.’87, P’10 decided to attend Duke for his graduate degree for two reasons. First, he was fascinated by the work his Ph.D. advisor, Dr. John Coie, was doing on children’s peer relations and social rejection, and Rabiner felt compelled to work in this area. He was also fortunate to be awarded a James B. Duke Fellowship, which provided a generous package of financial support.

Rabiner graduated with a doctorate in psychology. After a stretch working at UNC-Greensboro, he returned to Duke in 1999 to work in the newly created Center for Child and Family Policy. He later moved into a research professor position in the psychology department before serving as director of undergraduate studies. Today, Rabiner spends his time advising students as the director of Duke’s Academic Advising Center (AAC)—a role he finds extremely gratifying. The AAC connects students with a network of college advisors, directors, and academic deans, whose purpose is to help students explore opportunities at Duke and expand their involvement in the community.

“Advising students is deeply rewarding for me,” said Rabiner. “I believe excellent advising can contribute in meaningful ways to helping students to have the best Duke experience they can.”

In appreciation for all Duke has done for him—both as a student and in his career—Rabiner made a gift through his will to establish an endowment fund for the Academic Advising Center.

The David L. Rabiner Endowment will ensure that future students are given the guidance and care they need to excel at Duke and beyond.

“Knowing how important strong advising can be for students, contributing to that mission when I am no longer working at the Academic Advising Center is something I feel very good about and that is important to me.”

What was your first day on campus like?

That was a long time ago. I remember feeling nervous. I actually came mid-year as I had gotten married the prior summer and my wife was not able to move down for fall; the department allowed me to defer for a semester, which I appreciated. At my first class, it was clear that my classmates already knew each other quite well and were a close-knit group. I felt a bit like the odd man out, but people were friendly and welcoming and I soon felt much more comfortable.

How would you describe your graduate student experience?

My time spent as a student was both challenging and rewarding. Overall, my experience at Duke can best be described as invaluable.

My doctoral work at Duke defined my career path. I had a wonderful experience with my advisor who enabled me to take the work he started in directions that most interested me. This helped me become an independent scholar and obtain a tenure-track job at UNC-Greensboro upon completing my degree. 

Why did you choose to create an endowment to support the Academic Advising Center?

I began serving as an advisor shortly after returning to Duke in 1999 and really enjoyed working with students in this way. Advisors have an opportunity to play an important role in helping students settle in to Duke and to identify and pursue their educational and personal goals. For the past several years, I have served as director of the Academic Advising Center and have developed a deeper appreciation for the important role of excellent advising in students’ lives. For these reasons, the Academic Advising Center is something I feel very good about supporting.

Why do you feel that giving back is important?

I feel fortunate in so many ways to have had the opportunities that have come my way; many of these opportunities are directly attributable to Duke. I do not see this as “repaying” Duke in any real sense but rather as a tangible way to express my appreciation for all Duke has contributed to me and my family.


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