Microsoft CEO Gates, Wife Pledge $12 Million For Law School Building

Microsoft Chairman and CEO William H. Gates III and his wife, Melinda, will contribute $12 million toward construction of a new law school, the UW announced May 1.

The gift--along with state and other private funds--will help pay for construction of a new 200,000 square foot building to house the law school. The University hopes to complete the new building by the year 2000.

This latest donation brings to $34 million the total amount of contributions to the UW given by Gates over the last five years. In 1991, he gave the University $12 million to establish a new Department of Molecular Biotechnology in the School of Medicine. In May of 1995, the University announced a gift of $10 million from the Gateses to create the Mary Gates Endowment for Students. The latter gift honors Bill Gates' mother, who served on the University Board of Regents for 18 years.

"Melinda and I are delighted to make this contribution," said Gates. "We became aware of the project through my father, who is a graduate of the UW law school and has been an active volunteer and donor in the law school building campaign. As a state-of-the-art facility, this new building will help ensure that the UW's law school remains in the top tier of law schools around the country for years to come." His father, William H. Gates, graduated from the UW law school in 1950.

President Richard L. McCormick said, "We are enormously grateful to Bill and Melinda, and the other donors whose gifts will make this building possible. It will enable the University of Washington to continue to provide the quality of legal education and public service that the citizens of Washington expect and deserve from us."

The cost of the new building is estimated at $52 million. The state legislature appropriated funds for design in 1993, with further appropriations contingent on the University raising about one-third of the building's cost from private donors. The Gates gift brings the total of gifts and pledges from private donors to almost $15 million.

"A new building will help usher in a new era in legal education and training at the UW," said Roland Hjorth, dean of the law school. "By emphasizing advances in education technology, creating flexible work spaces adapted to hands-on training, and increasing library space, the new building will help us better educate our students and serve people in the community who depend on us."

The new building may be built on the south end of the N-1 parking lot, south of the Burke Museum and north of Parrington Hall. The current law building, Condon Hall on N.E. Campus Parkway, opened in 1974 as phase one of a two-part project, but the second phase was never built. Consultants say that Condon Hall is poorly designed and its library began to run out of space in 1983.

Architects and campus planners originally considered using some of the green space north of Parrington as a possible site. Sometimes called "Parrington Lawn" or "Hippie Hill," the space is now known as the "Campus Green." It includes open lawns and many older trees. The siting option sparked opposition among students, staff and faculty who want to preserve open space on campus.

In March, the ad hoc Site Programming Committee for the law school, headed by Landscape Architecture Professor Sally Schauman, recommended the parking lot site north of the Campus Green. The panel suggested that special care be taken in protecting the green space.

The recommended site is still controversial to some. The Burke Museum is in the middle of a state-funded planning process. The loss of 200 parking spaces near the museum may prompt the facility to move some of its programs off campus. In April the Faculty Senate passed a non-binding resolution calling for delaying the final site decision until planning for the Burke is resolved or until Jan. 15. President McCormick decided the process should continue on schedule and that he later made the final decision to accept the parking lot site.

Plans call for groundbreaking to take place in 1998 and occupancy in 2000. The UW plans to move administrative offices into the current Condon Hall once the law school leaves.

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