Bill Gates reportedly spent a fair chunk of change, $500 million, on a new campus near the Seattle Center for his charitable foundation. So naturally, it was only a matter of time before the software mogul-turned-humanitarian and his wife Melinda decided to invite about 1,000 or so community leaders in media, politics, and business to take a look at the new palace for global health.
Much has been written already about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s new headquarters, and how it incorporates all kinds of environmentally friendly features. The $37 billion foundation has gotten a fair bit of PR buzz for—come on now—what is really just a nice new place for its employees to work, and for visiting dignitaries to meet. There have been tours galore, and I’m sure there will be many more. I ride my bike past the foundation on my way to work, but last night I stopped by for my first close look.
I thought I’d just snap some pictures and leave after 30 minutes, but the networking was too good to duck out early. The place was crawling with media. There was Dave Boardman, Jim Simon, Kristi Heim, and Sandi Doughton of the Seattle Times, Clay Holtzman of the Puget Sound Business Journal, John Cook of GeekWire, Hanson Hosein of the University of Washington, and Tom Paulson of KPLU. There were TV people like KOMO’s Denise Whitaker, and there were probably a lot more I don’t recognize. There was former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, sporting a beard; U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell; state Sen. Ed Murray, state Secretary of Commerce Rogers Weed; and King County councilman Larry Phillips.
Interestingly, I saw very few leaders from the Seattle life sciences community (Ken Stuart of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute was one exception.)
The speeches were short and sweet. Bill joked about how he wasn’t involved in the project very much, until it came time to write the big checks. Melinda made a direct appeal to the local audience, saying the buildings were designed to be transparent, since the foundation needs to work closely with so many partners from different organizations. She got her biggest applause when she played to the hometown crowd. “This is our home and our roots. I love it” in Seattle, Melinda said. She added: “We plan to be here a very long time to carry out this mission.”
Here are a few of the scenes I snapped from the inside of the new Gates Foundation. You can click on the thumbnail to see a larger and more vivid image.
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