Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein’s influence can be felt all over the Baltimore area, from after-school recreation programs in Belair-Edison, funded by a foundation that she helmed, to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, which she helped steer through a financial crisis.
Less well-known is the impact this plain-talking dynamo has made nationally.
“Terry has a singular passion for helping addicts, alcoholics and families get well,” says William C. Moyers, vice president of public affairs for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, a Minnesota-based addiction treatment center.
“She was instrumental in helping us get national legislation passed in 2008 requiring insurance companies to pay for addiction treatment at the same level as physical illnesses. That’s really important, and I don’t think people in Baltimore know that about her.”
Rubenstein had personal reasons for becoming involved with Hazelden — a relative, now grown, received treatment there as a teen.
But she pours the same energy and strategic thinking into everything she does, whether advocating for people with disabilities as director of the Maryland Special Olympics in the 1970s, working as a consumer affairs reporter for The Sun that same decade, leading a task force to build the first Jewish student center at the Johns Hopkins University, or working with other builders to renovate a town house that was auctioned off to raise money for homeless people.
“In the era when I grew up, people didn’t know what to do with strong” women, Rubenstein, 74, says. “I like to run things. I was always very clear about what needed to be done.”
Rubenstein’s grandfather, Joseph Meyerhoff, made his fortune in construction and real estate and left his wealth to his children and grandchildren. Rubenstein’s parents raised their four kids in Baltimore County and were determined not to spoil them.
“My parents raised us to be tough and capable,” Rubenstein says. “If I got into trouble at school, they said, ‘Take care of it.’ They never intervened.”
In college, Rubenstein’s savvy political instincts nearly got her in trouble. She enrolled at the University of Wisconsin just as anti-war protests were sweeping the nation. The Madison campus was a hotbed of activity.
“I used to go to SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] meetings,” Rubenstein says.
“I would say things like, ‘If you really want to take over the campus, you have to take over the power grid.’ I’m lucky that at the time, the men were running everything and no one listened to me. That’s just the way my mind works; I’m very goal-oriented.”
Sensing she was getting in over her head — there was a fatal campus bombing two years after she left — Rubenstein transferred to Boston’s Emerson College, where she completed her undergraduate education.
On some level, Rubenstein probably always knew that she’d eventually join the family business. In the 1980s and 1990s, she and her husband, Jim, were developers specializing in residential real estate. They built Owings Mills New Town — the largest planned community in the Baltimore area.
“I grew up in a family of builders,” Rubenstein says. “It’s a very exciting, very creative — and very tough — business. People can get nasty because it is their home. It was never easy keeping everyone happy.”
In 1998, she went to work for the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, becoming director of the philanthropic organization in 2005. Under her leadership, the Family Foundation invested in projects aimed at bolstering the middle class.
“We met with city officials and identified organizations we could stabilize with just a little bit of support. You don’t have to spend a million dollars. You can spend $100,000 and make a big difference,” Rubenstein says.
Among the family fund’s projects: supporting free admission at the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum.
“Terry is a terrific leader,” says Mike Gill, who served twice as the secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce and was inducted into The Sun’s Hall of Fame in 2021.
“She’s direct and clear and passionate. Sheryl Sandberg [Facebook’s former chief operating officer] talks about ‘leaning in.’ Go to any board meeting, and most people are seated in a neutral position. But there are always a few sitting on the edge of their chairs.
“Terry always leans in.”
Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein
Hometown: Caves Valley
Current residence: Cockeysville
Education: Park School of Baltimore, B.S. from Emerson College in Boston
Career highlights: Developed residential communities in Maryland under the names of Bancroft Homes, West Town Development and New Town Development; executive vice president and director of the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds
Civic and charitable activities: Leadership roles at the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minnesota; former secretary and treasurer of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra board of directors; former chairwoman of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce
Family: Married to James Rubenstein; three children and six grandchildren