A significant donation from L.A. Clippers owner and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will fund 12 new computer science professorships at Harvard University, his alma mater and the school where he and Bill Gates met before going on to lead Microsoft.
The size of the donation wasn’t disclosed, but the Harvard Crimson reports that professorships at Harvard typically cost about $5 million, and Ballmer acknowledged in an interview with the paper that its estimate of $60 million was “pretty good.”
The gift will increase the size of Harvard’s computer science faculty by 50 percent, with the goal of elevating Harvard’s status among the nation’s top universities for computer science education.
“Right now I think everybody would agree that MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon are the top places [for computer science],” Ballmer told the Crimson, noting that some would also include UC Berkeley. “I want Harvard on that list.”
“This is going to change everything,” said David Parkes, Harvard’s area dean for computer science, in an interview with the New York Times. “This is going to change the way people view computer science here.”
Demand for computer science education is booming, and many schools are having trouble keeping up with the demand. Ballmer has historically been a major donor to the University of Washington in Seattle, which is planning a second computer science building with an estimated cost of $100 million, a large portion of which will be privately funded.
The University of Oregon yesterday announced a $50 million gift from Ballmer and his wife, Connie Ballmer, an alumnus of the school.