Melinda Gates is the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. She is best known for her philanthropic work as the co-founder of the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.’ She completed her bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science from the Duke University and pursued MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, where she was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Beta Rho Chapter. After completing her education, she joined Microsoft and was associated with several developmental projects in multimedia before her elevation as the General Manager of Information Products. Melinda met Bill Gates while working for Microsoft at a PC trade show in Manhattan and went on to date him for six years before they got married in a private ceremony held at Lanai, Hawaii. She left her job with Microsoft after she had her first child as she need time to raise her children. She was touched by the poverty and suffering in Africa and other backward regions while touring with her husband, and they both decided to do something for better health and education of the poor and needy. She has received several honorary awards and degrees, and has figured on the Forbes’ list of ‘one of the most powerful women in the world.’
Childhood & Early Life
She was born Melinda Ann French on August 15, 1964, in Dallas, Texas, US, to Raymond Joseph French Jr. and Elaine Agnes Amerland. Her father was an aerospace engineer, who did a side business of renting properties and her mother was a homemaker. She has two younger brothers and an elder sister with whom she was raised in the Roman Catholic faith.
She studied at St Monica Catholic School, where she excelled in academics and was among the top students of her class. She graduated from the Ursuline Academy of Dallas as a valedictorian in 1982. She developed interest in computers and maths while in high school. She completed her bachelor’s degree in economics and computer science from the Duke University in 1986. She went on to earn an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 1887, where she was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, Beta Rho Chapter.
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After graduating from college, she joined Microsoft in 1987 and was part of several developmental projects in multimedia that include Microsoft Bob, Expedia, Encarta and Publisher. She worked with Microsoft for nine years to rise from a product manager to the position of General Manager of Information Products, till she got married to her boss and gave birth to her first child.
After getting married she served as a member of the board of trustees of Duke University from 1996 to 2003. She is on the board of directors of the Washington Post company and is an active participant in the Bilderberg Group conferences for fostering dialogue between Europe and North America. She was also on the board of directors of Drugstore.com till it was acquired by Walgreens.
She is the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that was initially started as the William H. Gates Foundation in 1994 and later restructured and renamed in 2000 with the aim of globally enhancing healthcare and eradicating extreme poverty. It also aims at increasing educational opportunities and access to information technology in the US by making internet available in all public libraries. She and her husband have donated large sums of money to the foundation in order to support the noble cause.
She chaired the $ 300 million fundraising campaign to expand the facilities at the Seattle Children’s Hospital in 2006 in recognition of which the hospital dedicated the ambulatory care building in her name. She also pledged a large sum of financial assistance towards improving the availability of contraceptives for women in poorer countries.
In 2013, she launched a partnership with Hillary Clinton to gather and supply data for the Clinton Foundation on the progress of women and the girl child around the world since the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
In 2016, she began working on a project to enhance the participation of women in technology. She spoke on the subject at the 2017 Grace Hopper Celebration and emphasised the need for women around the world to be given the opportunity to work, besides running their homes and bringing up children.
Lately in an interview she has expressed concern on the possibilities of a large scale bioterrorist attack that could hit America or any other part of the world. While speaking about President Trump, she has indicated that it is important for her foundation to maintain a strong relationship with the administration. However, she has mentioned that the President could be more considerate towards women.
Awards & Achievements
She and her husband received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged at the Jefferson Awards, 2002.
In 2006 the couple received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in recognition of their charitable work and she was awarded the Insignia of the Order of the Aztec Eagle by Mexico for promoting health and education.
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She has received an honorary doctorate in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden; honorary degree from the University of Cambridge and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Duke University as a tribute to her charitable work and financial contributions.
She was ranked number three in the Forbes list of 100 Most Powerful Women in 2013, 2014 and 2017.
She was made an honorary Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for her philanthropy and international development work.
She and her husband received the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India in 2015 in recognition of their philanthropic work in the country.
President Barack Obama honoured the couple with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their charitable work in 2016.
In 2017, she and her husband were awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government and the Otto Hahn Peace Medal by Germany for their contribution to international peace and understanding.
Personal Life & Legacy
While working with Microsoft, Melinda met Bill Gates at a PC trade show in Manhattan in 1987. She was quite taken aback when her boss asked her for a date which was scheduled two weeks from the date he asked her. She liked his sense of humour and approachability and later realised his busy pace of life that forced him to schedule his commitments in a deliberate manner. The couple dated for six years before they finally got married in 1994, in a private ceremony held at Lanai, Hawaii.
She left her job with Microsoft when her eldest daughter, Jennifer, was born in 1996, to devote more time in raising her children. The couple have two daughters and a son with whom they reside in their estate on the shore of Lake Washington close to Seattle.
During the initial years of her marriage she took some time to adjust her outlook from an employee to the wife of one of the richest persons on earth. From being reserved, she soon took on the role of one of the leading philanthropists in the world. She has a tender spot for women and children in third world countries and has been championing the cause of better education and work opportunities in the developed world.
She and her husband have pledged to give their children the best of education that will put them on their own feet. However, they are not in favour of giving them too much money which will defeat the purpose of them working to make their own mark.
She attributes her first trip to Africa in 1993 with Bill Gates as a turning point in her life that made her work towards eradicating poverty in several developing countries.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarships, established by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with an initial endowment of $ 210 million enables students from all around the globe to study at the Cambridge University with full funding for postgraduate study.
Melinda and Bill Gates were named Person of the Year 2005 by the Time magazine for their outstanding philanthropic work.
According to an email from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, she and her husband were considered as suitable vice presidential candidates.
She donated over $ 10 million to Ursuline Academy of Dallas, from where she completed her high school.
American business tycoon and philanthropist Warren Edward Buffett is a good friend of Melinda and Bill Gates and is responsible for contributing large sums of money to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.