Gates helps dedicate new CMU centers
Henry Hillman, left, and Bill Gates celebrate the ribbon-cutting yesterday of the new Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies at Carnegie Mellon University. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $20 million and the Henry Hillman Foundation donated $10 million toward the $98.6 million project.
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Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Inc. and computer legend, is described as "a rock star" at Carnegie Mellon University, especially in the School of Computer Science.
When the university made 1,200 tickets available for his keynote address to dedicate the new Gates and Hillman centers, tickets were gone in 23 hours. He also received a standing ovation yesterday when university President Jared L. Cohon introduced him inside Wiegand Gymnasium in University Center.
"I'm always inspired when I come here," Mr. Gates said. "I'm inspired by the great minds that are here and the ones that will be coming here, and I'm inspired by the opportunity to do work that is both fun and interesting."
After Mr. Gates' 10-minute presentation, he and fellow philanthropist Henry Hillman cut the red ribbon to dedicate the centers.
The Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies represent a campus crossroads just off Forbes Avenue that connects upper and lower segments of campus. The modern structures, designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects in Atlanta, with landscaping by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates of Brooklyn, N.Y., feature abundant windows, pedestrian bridges, rich colors and landscaping, and five main entrances. The structures, with 217,000 square feet, will house the School of Computer Science.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $20 million while the Henry L. Hillman Foundation contributed $10 million toward the $98.6 million project.
Two days before the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, the campus was crawling with city and university police, including a dozen brought in from other universities to help maintain security while the world's richest man visited along with local officials, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and county Executive Dan Onorato.
Mr. Gates detailed the strong relationship between Microsoft and Carnegie Mellon, including graduates now working for Microsoft, and more than a dozen Gates Millennium Scholars now attending the university.
His address focused on computers' importance in society, although he said they still are underused in education. During a question-and-answer session, he talked about his role in philanthropy.
"I will take what is appropriate for my kids to have, and the rest I want to give back to society."
He said the Gates Foundation he co-chairs with his wife, Melinda, is focused on "global health and empowering the poor." The foundation philosophy is to spend money to help the most people worldwide, including fighting malaria and funding vaccines. Another focus is education.
"My view of philanthropy is, you pick a paradigm that's been successful and you catalyze more of that," he said.
The nation's top 20 foundations lost about 28 percent of their endowments during the economy downturn, he said.
"It's a tough time for foundations," he said. "But this country will keep creating wealth because of the things we're talking about creating here, including computer science and robotics."
He said he's expecting success inside the building bearing his name.
"So, I'll be following your work," Mr. Gates said. "I can't wait to see these great advances that are delivered and the progress that will be enabled."
First Published September 23, 2009 12:00 am