“Things around Harvard move at a Harvard pace. That’s not glacially, but not exactly as I said the speed of the technology industry either,” Ballmer said. “There’s still a lot of money to be raised. I don’t want any buildings to be the constraint for the growth of computer science. Gotta move, gotta get Allston built.... This can’t be mañana, mañana, mañana.”
Still, on Wednesday, the notoriously energetic Ballmer could not contain his excitement, pounding the arm of an armchair for emphasis and jumping out of his seat in enthusiasm at least once.
“When I was a senior, they asked four of us to run the fundraising efforts for the class of ’77,” he said. “I’ve been on my class committee since 1977, continuous service. I’ve been a friend of Harvard since the day I graduated.”
It has been a busy year for Ballmer, who recently spent $2 billion to buy the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise, but this donation has long been in the works, he said Wednesday. Ballmer said that he met with University President Drew G. Faust and Harvard Corporation member James F. Rothenberg ’68 the day he retired from Microsoft this February. Ballmer came to Cambridge that same month at the invitation of Faust and Rothenberg, touring Allston with University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 and meeting with a number of faculty members.
Ballmer, who was a Crimson business editor during his time at Harvard, also had breakfast during the trip with Parkes. That meal, as well as a conversation with Murray, served as the primary impetus for the eventual gift, Ballmer said. He and Parkes agreed that the expansion aims to achieve “excellence in scale.”
“With quantity comes the ability to span new areas and not abandon all areas that are currently of interest,” Ballmer said. “I became convinced talking to David [Parkes] and Cherry [A. Murray] that scale was part of excellence. Harvard really did have the will and the determination, and Drew [Faust] had the will and determination.”
Ballmer added that even Maxwell Dworkin, the engineering building that he and Microsoft founder Bill Gates funded with a $25 million gift in 1996, is now overcrowded and dated, indicating the field’s rapid expansion.
“It is a little bizarre. It’s pretty new, and yet full and a little out of date,” Ballmer said of Maxwell Dworkin during Wednesday’s interview. “It’s just a huge demand whether it’s at Harvard or the rest of the nation that we’re seeing.”
“Steve’s energy in this challenge will really galvanize us to do what he has set forth, which is to deepen, widen, and grow the computer science department in ways that can make it a leader for Harvard and a leader in the world,” Faust said.
Harvard communications official Patrick S. McKiernan also attended the interview, which was granted on the condition that The Crimson not publish its contents until Nov. 13.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter@amna_hashmi.