Bill Gates has experienced a lot of "firsts" in his interesting life. Gates wrote his first computer program when he was in the eighth grade. Gates and three other preparatory school students, Paul Allen, Kent Evans and Ric Weiland, were the first students to exploit bugs in an operating system, which gave them free computer time.
During the summer of 1974, Allen and Gates started their own computer software company so Gates left Harvard to develop BASIC, which was the first interpreter for a new microcomputer developed by MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry System). Microsoft evolved from that first operating system and the world of computers changed forever.
In 1994, Gates formed the William H. Gates Foundation with an initial stock gift of $94 million. The Foundation was renamed the William and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999. When the foundation merged with the Gates Learning Foundation in 2000, Gates contributed an additional $126 million. Over the next six years funding grew to $2 billion and in 2006 Gates announced he would transition out of daily Microsoft operations at the end of July 2008 so he could devote more time and energy to the Gates Foundation.
In June 2006, Warren Buffet pledged 10 million Berkshire Hathaway Class B shares, worth $20 billion, to the Gates Foundation. The gift was designed to produce annual contributions in multiple years. Buffet's contribution came with three stipulations: Buffet wanted Bill and Melinda Gates to remain active in the administration of the Gates Foundation, the Foundation had to continue to qualify as a charity, and each year the Foundation had to give away funds in an amount equal to Buffet's previous year donation, plus another 5% of the foundation's net assets. The foundation had three years to conform to the third stipulation.
In April 2006, the Gates Foundation was organized into four divisions, which included one core division that handled operations like finance, administration, human resources and public relations. The grant-making divisions include the Global Health Program, the Global Development Program and the United States Program.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives away $800 million a year from the Global Health Program, approaching the annual budget of the United Nations Health Organization and is on par with the United States Agency for International Development in terms of money donated to fight infectious diseases. The Gates Foundation's donations account for 17% of the funds ($86million) dedicated to fight polio around the world.
The Global Development Program focuses on extreme poverty through grants like the Financial Asset Initiative's $5 million grant. That money helps provide more research and answers questions about micro-finance and the access to financial help in impoverished nations around the world.
The Pro Mujer is a $3.1 million grant aimed at the poorest women entrepreneurs in Latin America. The Grameen Foundation is a $1.5 million grant that makes micro-loans to families caught in the grip of poverty. Grameen's goal is to help 2.5 million families rise above the poverty level within five years.
The Agricultural Development Program helps organizations like the International Rice Research Institute keep up with the worldwide demand for the production of rice. The Gates Foundation has also formed a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation to enhance small farm productivity and agricultural science in Africa. That partnership is called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The United States Program has made several important grants. Those grants include $12.2 million to the Southeastern Library Network, and more than $250 million in grants to create new small schools in an effort to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio. The US Program has also given grants to Cornell University for a new science building, Carnegie Mellon University for a new computer science building, and it also gives scholarship money through several different programs and organizations.
In 2006, the Foundation announced that all of the trust's resources would be spent within 50 years after the deaths of Bill and Melinda. That stipulation will effectively bring to an end the Foundation at that point in time. Warren Buffet also stipulated that the proceeds from his shares of Berkshire Hathaway be used for philanthropic purposes within ten years after his death.
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