He was born in Summit, New Jersey, the son of immigrant parents. He studied in Germany before graduating from Princeton University. He then received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Yale University and a Ph.D. in religion from Harvard University. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
He was Vice Chancellor of the University of Redlands in Redlands, California. Rupp left Redlands to become Dean of Academic Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay in 1977, where he remained until 1979.
Rupp was the John Lord O’Brian Professor of Divinity and dean of the Harvard Divinity School from 1979 to 1985. Under his leadership, the curriculum of the school was revised to address more directly the pluralistic character of contemporary religious life. Further developments included new programs in women’s studies and religion, Jewish-Christian relations, and religion and medicine.
He was President of Rice University from 1985 to 1993, where in the course of his eight years applications for admission almost tripled, federal research support more than doubled, and the value of the Rice endowment increased by more than $500 million to $1.25 billion.
He became president of Columbia in 1993. During his nine-year tenure, he focused on enhancing undergraduate education, on strengthening the relationship of the campus to surrounding communities and New York City as a whole, and on increasing the university’s international orientation. At the same time, he completed both a financial restructuring of the university and a $2.84 billion fundraising campaign that achieved eight successive records in dollars raised.
As the IRC’s chief executive officer, Dr. Rupp oversees the agency’s relief and rehabilitation operations in 25 countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs throughout the United States. In addition, he leads the IRC’s advocacy efforts in Washington DC, Geneva, Brussels, and other capitals on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people. His responsibilities regularly take him to IRC program sites in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
He is the author of five books:
George and his wife Nancy are the parents of two adult daughters who are teaching and writing, one with scholarly expertise in East Asia and the other a specialist in African studies, and the grandparents of five children, three boys and two girls.
Rupp was chosen as Rice University's commencement (graduation) speaker for 2008.