Over the course of a nearly 50-year-long career as a technology innovator, business magnate, and philanthropist, Bill Gates has been incredibly successful—and drawn plenty of controversy. Gates is the co-founder and former chairman-CEO of the Microsoft Corporation, a top-25 company on the Fortune 500 and one of the catalyst companies of the personal computing (PC) revolution.
Since 1987, he has been included in Forbes’ annual billionaires list, and is currently the third wealthiest American, trailing only Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla’s Elon Musk. But as his days atop Microsoft’s management waned, he rescoped his focus onto the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the philanthropic organization he founded with his wife in 2000. Throughout his career, Gates has remained grateful to his alma mater, Harvard University, despite dropping out after three years to pursue the burgeoning PC development race. Although the self-proclaimed life-long student wisely cut his higher education short, he has remained connected to Harvard, ultimately receiving an honorary law degree in 2007.
As of 2020, the BMGF is one of the largest private charities in the world, with a current endowment of almost $50 billion dollars, and has reportedly paid out over that amount in grants to date. While the foundation’s primary focuses are improving global healthcare and fighting extreme poverty, it also directs substantial resources to expanding education access, including within Harvard University. In the organization’s first year, the BMGF endowed the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Center for Collaborative Education with grants totaling $8.5 million, empowering the university and other Boston-area schools and organizations.
The foundation has also created an endowed fellowship for Doctorate of Education Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, aimed at transforming education policy and practice through strengthened management skills. More recently, the BMGF donated roughly $50 million toward early childhood development and public health research at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Medical School, uniting two of the charity’s core focal points.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Gates and the BMGF committed up to $1.75 billion to the global coronavirus response, including establishing (in partnership with Mastercard and U.K. charity Wellcome) the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. Pandemic response is merely one of his big-picture global concerns, along with enhancing education, fighting poverty, and combatting climate change. With generous assistance from his philanthropy-peer Warren Buffett, the BMGF contributes approximately $6 billion per year to its various beneficiaries. Even though his immense success came despite leaving Harvard early, Gates is a strong proponent of sticking out the entire college experience. He informally continues his own education through books and online courses, proving that even a self-made billionaire has room for self-improvement.