June 18, 2021

Harvard’s computer science department gets a $60M boost from ex-Microsoft CEO

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BallmerPicBy Katie Sola From Mashable

Harvard’s computer science department is getting around $60 million from ex-Microsoft CEO and 1977 alum Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer, who now owns the LA Clippers basketball team, hopes to remake Harvard into a world-class destination for computer science by hiring 12 top professors. Despite Harvard’s stellar reputation, its computer science program isn’t top 10.

US News & World Report ranked Harvard’s department as the 18th best in the country, behind the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Maryland-College Park.

That said, “Introduction to Computer Science” is one of the most popular courses at Harvard. According to student newspaper The Harvard Crimson, 818 students, 12% of the student body, are enrolled in the class.

“I believe in Harvard,” Ballmer told the Crimson. “I went to school here and I love the place, and I believe in the power of technology to make a difference.”

Ballmer said he wants Harvard’s department to be as strong as those of MIT, University of California-Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University.

He has not specified the exact amount of the donation, but he told the Crimson he was “all in” with his commitment to endow 12 professorships, which generally cost $5 million each. The Crimson calculated this should bring the total gift to around $60 million, arithmetic Ballmer called “pretty good.”

“This is going to change everything,” Harvard’s Dean of Computer Sciences, David Parkes, told the New York Times. He explained to the Crimson that computer science is more important than ever, because “we’re at a point now where the field is affecting every other field.”

Hiring 12 outstanding professors won’t be easy. “The competition for these people is absolutely brutal,” former computer science professor Oren Etzioni told the New York Times.

IMAGE: This file photo taken Nov. 19, 2013, shows then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Washington.IMAGE: ELAINE THOMPSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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