The giving season has begun for former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie.
On Wednesday, they gave $50 million to her alma mater, University of Oregon, for scholarships, health research and communications.
Then on Thursday, Ballmer is scheduled to announce a large gift to Harvard, where he famously made friends with Bill Gates. Gates left to start Microsoft in 1975, while Ballmer stayed on to graduate in 1977.
Now Ballmer is the 33rd richest person in the world, with an estimated fortune of $22 billion, according to Bloomberg. So far his biggest expenditure appears to be the $2 billion purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.
At Harvard, Ballmer is making a donation to increase the size of Harvard’s computer-science program by 50 percent. It will enable Harvard to expand the program’s faculty size from 24 to 36.
“CS at Harvard today is small, but excellent,” Ballmer said in a release. “It already punches above its weight. With depth in systems, data, machine learning and artificial intelligence, it is focused on high-impact specialties that are literally changing the world. With this infusion of talent, I believe Harvard will be one of the preeminent, modern CS programs.”
Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, said the growth of its computer-science program “will enable our faculty to design their own future.”
The amount of the gift wasn’t disclosed, but endowing professorships may require a donation of $1 million or more. To fully endow a professorship at nearby MIT requires a donation of $4 million. That suggests the Ballmer gift to add a dozen faculty at Harvard may be comparable to the $50 million going to the University of Oregon.
Ballmer and Gates earlier funded the construction of Harvard’s Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory, named after their mothers. The space housing the computer science and electrical engineering programs was completed in 1999. They donated $25 million in 1996, with $20 million earmarked for the building and $5 million to endow a chair.
This time around Ballmer may have opted not to fund a chair in his name.