Melinda Gates tweeted this picture of herself and TV host Stephen Colbert prior to her appearance on his show.

Sure, Bill Gates may get more attention, but Melinda Gates is the one who deserves the newsmaker title this year — making a mark in a variety of ways in her role as co-chair and trustee of their philanthropic foundation.

On the local front, Melinda Gates was a driving force behind the creation of the new Gates Foundation headquarters complex in Seattle. Speaking at the opening in June, she said she wants the foundation to “feel more transparent” and for the mystery of the organization to disappear as members of the community become more engaged in its mission.

On the international front, the self-described “impatient optimist” continued to display both of those characteristics in the foundation’s global health initiatives — joining with Bill Gates to press for the eradication of malaria, urging policy leaders to not be content with merely controlling the disease in developing nations.

“Philanthropic dollars can only be the catalytic wedge,” she said at the Malaria Forum in October in Seattle. “Our dollars may look large but they are only a wedge in this. This all is going to come down to government funding long term.”

Also to her credit, she joined Twitter this year. And she put up with the antics of Stephen Colbert.

Newsmakers at the GeekWire Gala

We’ll be recognizing more than 20 Newsmakers of 2011 during the GeekWire Gala, Dec. 8 at the Great Hall at Seattle’s Union Station. We’ll introduce a new Newsmaker every weekday leading up to the big event.

The night is also a celebration of “Geeks who Give Back,” recognized in a special GeekWire 2012 Calendar that will be given to attendees, with a share of sponsorship proceeds going to the Child’s Play charity.

Tickets are available here for the event.

Thanks to our sponsors Zillow, Bing, Filter, Facebook and Barokas PR for helping to make this special evening possible.

Contact Rebecca Lovell, rebecca@geekwire.com, for sponsorship opportunities.

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