By ASHLEY COLLIS-BURGESS
Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, dedicated the Bill and Melinda Gates Hall at a ceremony Wednesday morning. With University officials also in attendance, the ceremony was followed by an open house for the computer science department’s 50th anniversary.
Gates said he was “thrilled” to have the opportunity to see the results of the “phenomenal project” and the “amazing” student work that happens at Cornell throughout his tour.
“I’m very excited that Melinda and I got to contribute a little bit helping make sure you have this great building,” he said. “It’s great to be here.”
Haym Hirsh, dean of the faculty for computing and information science, said that he was “honored” to be a part of a dedication to a building that transformed Cornell.
“Gates Hall is a transformational event for Cornell,” Hirsh said. “It brings to fruition a vision started over 20 years ago with Cornell creating CIS at the close of the 20th century to respond to the scholarly and academic opportunities offered by the information age in the 21st century.”
“Gates Hall is a transformational event for Cornell. It brings to fruition a vision started over twenty years ago.” — Haym Hirsh
The new Bill and Melinda Gates building has provided the CIS department with a modernized home that will “help foster collaboration and strengthen students educational experiences,” according to Hirsh.
Robert Harrison, ’76, chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees, also said he felt “privileged” to attend the dedication of a building that represents Cornell’s vision as a pioneering university that fosters collaborative work to affect the world.
“I have had the opportunity of seeing this building go from a proposal to a reality during my time as a trustee and it is a privilege to be here today for this dedication,” he said. “The work that takes place here will be of critical importance in realizing Cornell’s vision of becoming the landing university to the 21st century world.”
Through his interactions with Bill and Melinda Gates along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Harrison said that the building represents how the Gates’ “generosity and passion” for improving world issues coincides with Cornell’s mission to educate for public service.
“I have interacted with Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates foundation in my day job working for the Clinton Global Initiative and the issues we focused on there were issues like food security, global health and empowering girls and women,” he said. “It is very clear to me that [their] very generous and passionate commitment to improve the world, on so many fronts and across so many disciplines is the perfect expression of Cornell’s own mission to develop and disseminate knowledge with a public purpose.”
President David Skorton said he is thankful for all of those who contributed to the existence of a building that serves as a “visual icon for the university and community.”
“It beautifully fulfills the vision of a structure that will facilitate collaboration and the free exchange of ideas,” Skorton said. “It will inspire the students, faculty and staff through elegant design and state of the art sustainability.”
In reference to Cornell’s computer science department’s 50-year existence, Bill Gates said he feels a “little old” because his involvement with computers began just a few years after Cornell’s.
“I was about nine years old when Cornell got into computer science and four years later, I got into computer science,” he said. “My computer science department is 46 years old [back] when computers were expensive.”
Additionally, Bill Gates said it is an “amazing time” to be in the field of computer science because of the opportunities for finding solutions to old problems in a way that is different from other fields.
“This is an absolutely amazing time and even makes some of us wonder if this will go so fast that society will have to adapt and change to take advantage of it,” he said. “I think it creates opportunities, we just have to be smart about how we take advantage of that, for all the work that we’ve done here,” he said.