Harvard University has announced a gift from alumnus and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer ('77) to increase its computer science faculty by 50 percent.
The gift will be used over the next few years to boost from twenty-four to thirty-six the number of faculty teaching in the computer science division at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The number of Harvard undergraduates with a computer science concentration has grown from sixty-nine in the 2008-09 academic year to two hundred and seventy-five this year, and there are more than a hundred Harvard students enrolled in graduate programs in the field. SEAS also has two computer science-related research programs — the Center for Research on Computation and Society and the Institute for Applied Computational Science.
Ballmer has not disclosed the amount of the gift. When asked by the Harvard Crimson whether $60 million was an appropriate ballpark figure, given that Harvard professorships cost about $5 million each to endow, Ballmer said the arithmetic was "pretty good." The gift will count toward Harvard's $6.5 billion fundraising campaign, which has raised $4.3 billion to date.
"In my opinion, leadership in computer science is fundamental to Harvard remaining the leading institution in education," said Ballmer. "It really is about ensuring this institution stays vibrant, because...if Harvard doesn't lead [in computer science], it will affect all parts of the institution. If Harvard doesn't lead, it affects the vibrant ecosystem of companies and entrepreneurship and job opportunities that create this amazing feedback cycle: kids graduate, start companies, companies grow, they give back to the institution. The academics benefit from the entrepreneurship; the entrepreneurs benefit from the academic research and talent that's been educated [there]."