I happened to be at the regents meeting where the board officially accepted your giftat the time one of the largest ever given to the University. I remember Mary Gates standing up and making a kind and personal statement of appreciation, how she had known you for so many years. It was very moving. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt that day?
I had known Mary for a long time and she was a really inspirational womanI had spent a lot of time with the Gates family during our years at Lakeside, and our families knew each other well, and Bill would also come to visit me too. Mary did so much for the community and was a wonderful leader in our region--it was really heartwarming to have someone like her make such thoughtful remarks.
Do you keep tabs on how the endowment has enhanced the libraries?
Any time you can use your resources to make a positive and lasting impact, that's a great opportunity, and I look for ways to do that with my philanthropy - from the library to the computer science center. The library has strong leadership and a terrific staff - I'm glad my gift helped them continue their work and give students access to important literature from throughout history. My mother is also a huge fan of books, so having part of the library endowment be focused on book acquisition was an important component for me and my family.
When you walk past the Allen Library on campus, you must think about your Dad and how proud he would have been to see his name on this splendid building. It is one of my favorite modern buildings on campus, since the architect tried to place it in context with our Collegiate Gothic architecture. Do you ever just walk around in thereand in Suzzalloand take it all in? Does anyone recognize you if you do?
I always love coming to campusI spent a lot of time here back in the old days and I'm really pleased I can support the University now. The regents and the other leaders at UW have always been very thoughtful and strategic about how and when they add new facilitiesand the architectural impact those new buildings will make. It's a beautiful campus and we're really luck to have it in Seattle. I do love the architecture of the Suzallo addition named after my father, and especially how nice the Donald Peterson Room is. And the inside of the building is really well done.
This 1987 photo shows Paul Allen standing on the construction site of the Kenneth S. Allen Library, named after his father, an associate director of the libraries for 22 years. Photo by Mary Levin.
I do get recognized when I go out in public sometimes, but it just depends on the time and place - and it never deters me from doing anything. It's nice when people say "hi" or "thanks" - it helps me remember that I'm able to help the community in some way and that my charitable work is making a difference for people.
Another of your major UW gifts is $5 million to the Henry Art Gallery to establish the Faye G. Allen Center for Visual Arts.
I think it was (former Regent) Sam Stroum who approached me about the Henry gift. He and I both wanted to do something that recognized my mother and her love for books and art.
One of the reasons we asked to interview you is the new Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science and Engineering, which had its dedication in October. Do you ever reflect on the irony heresomeone who had to beg for time on UW computers when he was in high school now has a UW computer building named after him?
When I was first approached several years ago about somehow supporting UW's computer science facility, I was excited to be able to help. I had some great experiences here, and those early days in the computer lab at UW were a milestone on the way to starting Microsoft. Looking back, it's gratifying to remember that the University welcomed us, and although we weren't students, they embraced us and let us pursue our interests. It made a world of difference to us and gave huge momentum in what was to come.
There are personal and philanthropic reasons why you gave $14 million to help complete this project. Can you explain them to our readers?
On the personal side I have some great memories of visiting the campus with my fatherbe it to sneak into the graduate computer lab or to attend a Huskies football game. And of course this is where I really got my first chancemy first opportunityto follow my passion for computers that ultimately helped launch my career.
On the philanthropic side I really can't wait to see what the future holdswhat amazing inventions and discoveries are on the horizonthanks to the hard work and brilliant minds of the young people in the program. If the new facility helps support that vision and the students and faculty bringing it to reality, then it's always worth it.
You've gone on several tours of the new building. What is your reaction to it?
Stunningit's a really fantastic facility. The center has exceeded my expectations on many levels. There is so much lab space that I know many students are going to get even more hands-on experience than ever before. And although I'm proud to have supported this beautiful and unique facility, what really sets UW's computer science program apart are the peoplethe faculty and the students. The Allen Center is a wonderful home for the program, but at the end of the day it's the excitement, intelligence and innovation of the men and women in this organization that make it what it is. The faculty here is unparalleled, and the undergrad and graduate students are dedicated and inspiring.
How will this facility help the UW, the region and the world with the latest computer technology?
There are some truly exciting developments in the world of computer science and I am confident that the faculty and students here at UW will be on the front line of what's to come, from what the future holds in application development, user interface design, form factor (the size and shape of computers) and networking to the innovations yet to come with artificial intelligence and specifics such as language processing and speak recognitionthings that can improve computing based on what we learn about how the human brain works.
And pushing the envelope with the ever-elusive "killer app" still excites me and certainly motivates countless students, teachers and researchers here and around the world. Genuinely exploring new ways to draw people into computing - creating something so compelling that we can see another surge in the function and power of computers and how they help people live, work, play and learnis a great challenge and a wonderful opportunity. And it's an opportunity that I know the UW CSE program will leverage and exploitmoving forward with passion, zeal and the kind of fresh thinking and creative problem-solving that this school has become known for.
Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen (left) and Bill Gates (right) flank Computer Science and Engineering Professor Ed Lazowska during the celebration marking the opening of the new UW computer science and engineering building. Photo by Karen Orders.
I'm surprised at all the collaborative space in the facility. Ed Lazowska says the cliché of a single programmer hunched over a computer keyboard is horribly out of date. Computer science and engineering today is a much more collaborative process. Would you agree?
Yes it's true. It's really a hands-on, team approach that makes it successful.
Another growing tie with the UW is biotechnology. In September, you announced an extraordinary gift$100 million for the new Allen Institute for Brain Science. It hopes to create a definitive map of the mouse brain genome, what one researcher called the "neuroscience equivalent of the Human Genome Project." How do you see the UW interacting with this new, non-profit institute?
No other project in the world is focused on building a comprehensive map of gene expression overlaid with anatomical and functional brain data of this scope or scalewhat makes this unique is its breadth (the whole brain) and its depth (all the genes related to the brain, which could be 20,000 or more). This is a much needed research effort that will benefit scientists, and their efforts, worldwideincluding the important research work that UW is doing. We are expecting the first major release of data to occur in the first quarter of 2004, followed by quarterly updates thereafter. Scientists will be able to download the imagery and supporting data to support their own research efforts.
And the UW is leasing the old Washington Natural Gas building from your real estate company and hopes to have more than 750,000 square feet of biomedical research space located in the South Lake Union neighborhood. How do you see the UW's role in the overall development of South Lake Union?
UW Medicine already has a presence in South Lake Union at Vulcan's 60,000-square-foot Rosen Building on Republican Street and Terry Avenue North, which is also used for medical research programs, and at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance building at 825 Eastlake Ave. E. We are proud to welcome new bioscience companies to the South Lake Union neighborhood and bioscience is a big part of the economy of the future; the industry's discoveries of new methods to prevent and treat diseases will impact each and every one of us in a positive way. Seattle is fortunate to have such a critical mass of research organizations like UW at the forefront of this life-changing work.
&3151;Tom Griffin is the editor of Columns for 14 years and is the author of a new book, The University of Washington Experience.
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