UW News

April 10, 2014

Ballmer to speak at University of Washington commencement

News and Information

Steve Ballmer, who served as chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp. from 2000 to 2014, will be this year’s speaker at the University of Washington’s commencement exercises June 14.

Steve Ballmer (right) with Bill Gates (center and Satya Nadella, Microsoft's three CEOs.

In a February 2014 photograph, Steve Ballmer (right), Microsoft Corp.’s second chief executive officer, stands with his predecessor, company founder Bill Gates (center) and his successor, Satya Nadella.Microsoft Corp.

Ballmer currently serves on Microsoft’s Board of Directors. He joined Microsoft in 1980 as its 30th employee and was the company’s first business manager. His roles at Microsoft have included president, executive vice president of sales and support, senior vice president of systems software, and vice president of marketing. He retired as chief executive officer on Feb. 4. Under his leadership, Microsoft more than tripled revenue and doubled profits.

“Steve Ballmer is one of a handful of visionary technology leaders who over the past several decades have had a dramatic impact on how we live and work,” said UW President Michael K. Young. “I’m sure he will have some interesting things to say to our students as they get ready to make their own marks upon the world just as he did but in ways we can hardly imagine.”

Ballmer was born in March 1956 and grew up in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills, where his father worked as a manager at Ford Motor Co. Ballmer earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Harvard University in 1977. He worked for two years at Procter & Gamble Co. as an assistant product manager, leaving in 1979 to attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business. During his first year at Stanford, he was lured to Microsoft by his sophomore-year Harvard classmate Bill Gates.

Ballmer was the architect of the platform/partner strategy for the Windows operating system, building an “ecosystem” of hardware and software companies developing products for the Windows platform. This led to thousands of companies contributing to and benefiting from the success of Windows.

In 2011, Ballmer was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor by then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The University of Washington’s 139th Commencement ceremonies will take place at 1:30 p.m. June 14 at Husky Stadium, with President Young officiating. The UW estimates that it will award more than 12,000 degrees this academic year. Approximately 5,000 graduates will actually attend the ceremony, with an audience of about 40,000 family members and friends expected to join them.