September 2008 -

Face Time: Gates + Kravas

Connie Kravas, vice president for advancement, interviews Campaign UW Chair Bill Gates Sr., í49, í50.

When you were a student in the í40s, could you have imagined the UW would raise $2.68 billion in your lifetime?

Mary Levin photo

No. Iím not even sure I could pronounce ďbillionĒ back in those days.

Of all the gifts given during the campaign, do you have a favorite?

No, I have two. I think the gift that was made to the School of Social Work, to try to mend the problems with foster children, was a particularly touching one. I donít think anybody whoís knowledgeable at all is unaware of the difficulty of raising foster children. The other gift doesnít have quite the same poignancy because itís so big, but Students First is wonderful. Itís a huge scholarship program for kids who otherwise would have a hard time affording this place. And weíre talking not about a couple of kids, weíre talking about hundreds of kids. Thousands.

Whatís the most unusual gift youíve heard about?

The change-ringing bells at Gerberding Hall, of course. Very unique. I personally respond to it with a lot of enthusiasm because I have, like some of the other older residents of this town, a very, very powerful and warm memory of the bells ringing up in the little tower on the north end of the campus. That was part of campus life, that sound. And now we have this magnifi cent piece of equipment, eight bells and eight different notes of the scale, and it actually takes eight people to really play them right. But itís awesome. The sound is just glorious.

Youíve been so successful in getting people to say yes. Whatís your secret?

You know, itís both a science and an art to do effective fundraising, and we have a group here on the campus that is as good at it as anybody in the world. I really donít attribute the success of the campaign to anything that I did. There are thousands of alums and friends of this University who have a warm and generous feeling about it. To me, the most interesting thing is the number of people who became involved. We had nearly 300,000 different people or entities that participated in the campaign. That number, to me, is every bit as impressive as the $2.68 billion.

If someone asked you why they should give to a University thatís already raised $2.68 billion, what would you tell them?

If someone suggested that we already had more money than we need, I would say, ďThatís certainly not true.Ē We have a list of another thousand things that would be wonderful to do if we had more philanthropy here. We would have no trouble making good use of another 500 professorships, for example. Then thereís the new College of the Environment, stem-cell research, the M.D./Ph.D. program. There literally is no end to it, and itís all good stuff.

While some of the work you did for the campaign was undoubtedly time-consuming and maybe trying, was there some fun along the way?

Oh, sure. Every task that led to a ďyesĒ and a check was fun. Thatís what you get up in the morning to do. When it happens, itís fun.