Ballmer, Myhrvold make Top 100 list recognizing CEOs impacting science, tech education

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Steve Ballmer and Nathan Myrhvold.

Two Washington CEOs — and former Microsoft colleagues — made a Top 100 CEO list for executives that were recognized for making a difference in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries and education.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Intellectual Ventures CEO Nathan Myrhvold made the list, which was compiled by STEMconnector “to salute and celebrate an active group of CEOs that have contributed to making a difference by pushing the STEM issue throughout their careers, their industries and their companies.”

STEMconnector analyzed three aspects: The CEO’s background and career, his or her company’s STEM position within the industry, and the company’s specific items and lines of action around STEM. Here’s the full list all 100 CEOs.

Myhrvold and Ballmer actually worked together when Myhrvold was Microsoft’s CTO in the 90s. He left the Redmond software giant in 1999 to start a patent-holding company called Intellectual Ventures, which has taken some serious heat recently for its business practices — even the president is jumping in on the issue of patent-hoarding firms.

In terms of STEM-related education, Washington is actually doing quite poorly. While the state ranks fourth in the nation for tech-related companies — largely through import of talent from elsewhere — it comes in a disappointing 46th for participation in science and engineering graduate programs.

computersciencewashThe poor state of Washington’s education system was a theme that ran through the entire Technology Alliance luncheon last month, and was also the focus of short but stinging speech from Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.

“Our state is the ass end of the donkey in just about every aspect of education and in just about every aspect of preparing Washington’s kids for Washington’s jobs,” Lazowska said.

One promising step the state took recently was allowing Washington high schoolers to count computer science classes as a math or science requirement toward high school graduation, becoming the tenth state to do so.

In regard to the startup community, education is key when it comes to building out the ecosystem here and cultivating future entrepreneurs that work in the region after graduation. While the UW’s premier computer science school produces lots of high-quality graduates right in Seattle, the acceptance rate is low and hundreds of would-be programmers are turned away every year. The problem is that there aren’t many other places around the city to earn a degree in STEM-related fields.

startupseattleThat’s why education is a focus of Mayor Mike McGinn’s new startup initiative. Many here support the idea of a tech-focused private university to offer budding local engineers more opportunities to be educated. As part of his effort to transform New York into a “mid-Atlantic Silicon Valley,” NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg put huge resources behind Cornell, NYU, and Columbia to expand engineering programs in the city and so far, it’s certainly helping the startup scene there.

But Seattle does not have several established universities in the area like NYC and perhaps one thing that could really help the city is multiple second-tier schools. While Seattle has a premier institution in the UW, there’s not much else here churning out talented graduates. McGinn did cite Northeastern University’s move to Seattle as one example of a school realizing a market niche not being filled.

Previously on GeekWire: The state of education: Yes, we suck