UW News

February 21, 2002

Allen gives $14 million for Computer Science & Engineering Building

Investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen has given $14 million to the UW to ensure the completion of a new facility for the university’s nationally ranked Department of Computer Science & Engineering, officials announced this week.

The Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, currently under construction on the UW campus, will more than double the space available for the program when it opens in summer 2003. Sixty percent of the funding for the project is being raised privately; other major donors include Allen’s boyhood friend and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Microsoft Corp. itself, and several dozen individuals and organizations from the region’s technology and venture capital communities.

“Bill and I got a big part of our start in computer science at the University of Washington when we were still students at Lakeside School,” Allen said. “UW Computer Science & Engineering is an engine of opportunity and we want to help make sure it’s an even more cutting-edge resource for the coming generation.”

UW President Richard L. McCormick called the gift a generous investment in the region’s educational and economic future.

“We are very grateful to Paul for his support and trust in us,” McCormick said. “Historically, UW CSE has been a major driver of technology in the region. Paul’s gift, as well as the gifts from the Gates Foundation, Microsoft and our other supporters will pay dividends for the entire state far into the future.”

Ed Lazowska, the Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science at the UW and head of the department from 1993 to 2001, agreed, saying the gift will provide the means to keep the UW program among the nation’s best.

“I’m incredibly grateful to Paul, to Bill, and the Gates Foundation and to all our other donors for providing us with the tools to remain competitive,” Lazowska said. “We’re consistently ranked among the top 10 programs in the nation at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, but we’ve been operating with less than half the space of comparable programs at a time when the field is becoming more laboratory-intensive and student demand and intellectual opportunity are greater than ever.”

The building will provide 75,000 square feet of new space for the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and an additional 10,000 square feet of space for the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering. Laboratory space for Computer Science & Engineering will triple. The result, according to Lazowska, will be greater success in recruiting top students and faculty, and education and research programs that better reflect the experimental and interdisciplinary nature of the cutting edge of the field.

Allen’s gift brings the total in private support for the building to $37 million. That, with $30 million in institutional and state money, puts the $72 million building within reach. But the fund-raising drive has further to go, officials say — a viable, vibrant program includes more than bricks and mortar.

“The Computer Science & Engineering campaign also includes $3 million in technology for the building and $20 million in endowments for scholarships, fellowships and professorships to attract top students and faculty,” Lazowska said. “These components are essential for our program to hold its place among the nation’s best and to continue to energize the regional economy. Our friends and alumni have already contributed $7 million toward this part of the effort, and we’re confident they will help us finish the campaign.”

The CSE fund-raising campaign is led by Tom Alberg (Madrona Venture Group) and Jeremy Jaech (UW CSE alumnus and co-founder of Aldus and Visio). Thus far, the campaign has raised more than $15 million in addition to the gifts from Allen, Gates, and Microsoft.