Gates, Ballmer Donate $25 M for C.S. Building

Microsoft Head, Overseer Support Research, Endow Chair

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Microsoft executive vice-president Steven A. Ballmer '77 will give $25 million to Harvard's computer science and electrical engineering programs, the University announced yesterday.

Twenty million dollars of the gift will be used to construct a state-of-the-art research and teaching facility. The remaining $5 million will support research and endow a faculty chair, said Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68.

Faculty and administrators were visibly elated by the gift. The usually staid Lewis--who is also McKay professor of computer science and taught Gates during his stint at Harvard--went so far as to shout "Yippee!" and share sparkling cider with students in his class, Computer Science 121, "Introduction to Formal Systems and Computation."

"For more than five years we have planned a stronger presence in electrical engineering and computer science at Harvard; dramatically, now, this plan becomes a reality," said Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles in a press release.

The new building, to be named Maxwell Dworkin in honor of the donors' mothers, will create a new home for faculty and students in computer science and electrical engineering. Offices in those departments are currently scattered between Pierce Hall and the Aiken Computation Lab.


Lewis said he does not know where the building will be constructed.

"One thing at a time," Lewis said.

Gates, a dropout of the class of 1977, said in the release that a new building and supplemented faculty will "promote an interdisciplinary approach that will encourage great ideas from a diverse group of smart people working closely together."

"The facility will provide a better place for physical interaction," agreed Dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences Paul C. Martin.

Lewis told students in Computer Science 121 that construction of the new building may be imminent.

"There's a lot of planning that has to be done.... If you're a freshman, I certainly hope by the time you're a senior, you'll see it," he said.

Although Gates has donated $34 million to the University of Washington and $6 million to Stanford University, the contribution is his first major gift to Harvard.

President Neil L. Rudenstine said he spoke with Gates last spring when Gates gave a keynote address at the Harvard Conference on the Internet and Society.

"I think he's been much more in contact with Harvard over the last three or four years," said Rudenstine. "He wanted to know that we felt this deal was important and that we were committed to it."

The president credits Ballmer with convincing his former classmate to assist with the contribution. Ballmer, one of the University's Overseers since 1991, is an active fundraiser for the University and has donated software to student groups like the Harvard Computer Society.

McKay Professor of Computer Science Barbara J. Grosz said she believes the increasing number of Harvard students who either intern or go on to work for Microsoft were partly responsible for the donation.

"[Microsoft has] seen the quality of students and wants to invest in the future," she said.

The gift brings the University's five-year capital campaign closer to its goal of $2.1 billion. As of the end of September, gifts to the campaign totaled $1.32 billion, according to the press release.

Rudenstine believes the contribution bodes well for the future of the campaign.

"[The applied sciences] is an area where it's quite difficult to raise money," he said. "[The gift] is special in that it adds to the sense of momentum in the campaign as a whole.

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