Mary Maxwell Gates was an American businesswoman and the mother of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. She was associated with philanthropy and rendered voluntary service. Having worked as a school teacher in the early 1950s, Mary strived towards addressing students’ concerns. She served on the board of regents of the ‘University of Washington’ from 1975 to 1993. She also served on the boards of many non-profit organizations, such as ‘Children’s Hospital Foundation,’ ‘United Way of King County,’ and ‘Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.’ She became the first female president of ‘United Way of King County’ and the first woman to chair the executive committee of the national ‘United Way.’ She was also the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Washington’s ‘First Interstate Bank.’ She was also instrumental in helping her son’s company ‘Microsoft’ strike a deal with IBM) which was a defining moment in Microsoft’s history.
Early Life & Career
Mary Ann Maxwell was born on July 5, 1929, in Seattle, Washington, US, to Adele Thompson and James Willard Maxwell. After graduating from ‘Roosevelt High School’ in Seattle, Mary went to the ‘University of Washington.’ She graduated from the university in 1950 and started working as a school teacher. She then turned her attention towards various civic activities and volunteered as a lecturer at the ‘Museum of History and Industry’ (MOHAI). Subsequently, Mary served on the boards of organizations, such as ‘United Way of King County.’ From 1966 to 1967, she served as the president of ‘Association of Junior Leagues International’ (AJLI). In 1972, she served on the board of trustees of ‘Children’s Orthopedic Hospital’ in Seattle. As a member of the board of trustees, Mary persuaded officials to work on the issues faced by the hospital and children. Upon her suggestion, ‘Children’s Hospital Foundation’ was formed in 1985 to manage the hospital’s investments.
In 1975, Governor Dan Evans appointed Mary to serve on the board of regents of the ‘University of Washington.’ In the mid-1980s, she spearheaded a movement to stop the university from investing in South Africa as a form of protest against South Africa’s oppressive system of apartheid. She continued to serve on the board of regents of the university until 1993. Meanwhile, she also served on the boards of many prominent corporations, such as ‘Unigard Security Insurance Group,’ ‘KIRO, Inc.,’ ‘Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company,’ and ‘First Interstate Bank of Washington.’ In 1980, she started serving on the board of directors of the national ‘United Way.’ During her tenure on the national board’s executive committee, Mary spoke about her son’s company ‘Microsoft’ to a fellow committee member and chairman of ‘IBM’ John Opel. Subsequently, ‘IBM’ hired ‘Microsoft’ to develop an operating system for its ‘IBM Personal Computer’ (IBM PC).
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Awards & Achievements
Mary Maxwell Gates became the first woman to lead the board of directors of the national ‘United Way’ in 1983. She was also the first woman to serve on the board of directors of Washington’s ‘First Interstate Bank’ and the first woman to be appointed as the president of ‘United Way of King County.’ In 1991, a non-profit organization called ‘Washington Gives’ named Mary and her family as the ‘Philanthropic Family of the Year.’ In 1995, her family was named the ‘First Citizens’ by the ‘Seattle-King County Association of Realtors.’ In June 1994, she was chosen as the ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the ‘Seattle Municipal League of King County.’ However, she died a day before the felicitation ceremony.
Family & Personal Life
Mary’s father James Willard Maxwell was a banker. Her grandfather served as the president of the ‘National City Bank’ from 1911 to 1929. He also served as the director of ‘Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Seattle Branch.’ Mary met William Henry Gates II while studying at the ‘University of Washington.’ She married him in 1951 and the couple was blessed with three children, namely Kristianne, William Henry Gates III (Bill Gates), and Libby. While Kristianne and Libby are well-known philanthropists, Bill Gates went on to become one of the world’s richest men.
Death & Legacy
Mary Maxwell Gates passed away on June 10, 1994, in Seattle, Washington, after losing her battle to breast cancer. After her death, her family established two endowments in her memory at the ‘University of Washington.’ ‘Mary Gates Hall’ in the ‘University of Washington’ is named after her. ‘Mary Gates Hall’ houses the university’s ‘Undergraduate Academic Affairs,’ ‘Career Center,’ ‘Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity,’ and ‘The Information School.’ Also, one of the streets inside the campus is named after her.