FEATURE

Investing in the future of innovation

$50M endowment establishes the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering

Thanks to the generosity of internationally renowned philanthropist and computing pioneer Paul G. Allen, the University of Washington embarks on an exciting new path of innovation and leadership in computer science and engineering education, research and entrepreneurism.

The establishment of the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering was announced at UW CSE’s 50th anniversary event on March 9. Shortly before the event, the UW Board of Regents voted to name the school for Allen in recognition of his longstanding support for the mission of the University and CSE.

A $50 million endowment for the new school — which comes in the form of $40 million from Allen, enhanced by a gift of $10 million from Microsoft Corporation in Allen’s honor — will propel the UW to the forefront of computer science education and innovation for generations to come.

Paul G. Allen

“We are entering a new golden age of innovation in computer science, and UW students and faculty will be at its leading edge,” Allen said. “My hope is that the school will have the same influence on them as it did on me — that they will continue to dream big, breaking through technological barriers and using their skills to solve some of the biggest problems our world faces.”

The move to elevate CSE from a department to a school signifies its growing size, stature and impact, and acknowledges the increasing importance of computer science and engineering in the modern university and in the modern world.

“Computer science education is a gateway to progress, innovation and opportunity. We are delighted to honor Paul’s tremendous impact on our company, and his continuing support for computer science will have a lasting impact on generations to come,” said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.

“In becoming the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, we will be forever linked with an internationally revered pioneer and visionary,” said Ed Lazowska, Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering. “The aspirational and reputational value of this connection is incalculable. CSE will be more nimble, more competitive and have an even greater impact on students, on science and on society.”

The creation of the school is also a tribute to Allen’s vision of the role that science should play in society, by coupling technological innovation with the quest for solutions to humankind’s greatest challenges. This vision led him to establish the Allen Institutes for Artificial Intelligence, Brain Science and Cell Science. These leading-edge research institutes have opened new frontiers of discovery and new collaborations with UW faculty and students.

Allen has a longstanding connection to and affinity for UW CSE. As a student at Seattle’s Lakeside School in the 1960s, he visited the UW campus to use its computer labs. Just over three decades later, in 2003, doors opened to the state-of-the-art Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering at the heart of the UW campus, which catalyzed UW CSE’s growth into one of the top computer science programs in the nation. With his latest gift, Allen attains the rank of Regental Laureate, an honor reserved for those whose lifetime giving to the UW totals $100 million or more.

“We’re truly fortunate to have such a generous supporter in Paul Allen, who not only shares our commitment to fostering broad-based excellence, but who has demonstrated it throughout his career,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.

As the Allen School, UW CSE will have the flexibility and resources to compete at the highest level for faculty, students and new investments in research, and it will use Allen’s gift to pursue new opportunities to accelerate scientific discovery and real-world impact. The school will provide a creative springboard for young innovators to drive forward technologies that change the world for the better, inspired by the example set by Allen himself.

“Our school and its contributions to education and innovation will become part of Paul’s legacy,” said Hank Levy, Wissner-Slivka Chair in Computer Science & Engineering and director of the new school. “Every day, every one of us will work hard to make Paul as proud to be associated with us, as we are to be associated with him.”

The endowment comes in addition to UW CSE’s efforts to raise $110 million for a second computer science and engineering building, plus funds for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and faculty professorships and chairs. Construction began in January on the new building and is scheduled for completion in December 2018. Allen’s latest gift comes in the midst of the University’s most ambitious philanthropic campaign in its history, “Be Boundless — For Washington, For the World.” The campaign seeks to raise $5 billion by 2020.

Paul Allen at CSE 50th anniversary, signing $50M gift

“There's probably no institution that has had a greater influence on me than the University of Washington. I spent hour after hour in the University library devouring everything I could on the latest advances in computer science. And it was access to UW computers as a high school student that served as a springboard for the eventual launch of Microsoft.”

- Paul G. Allen

Leading-edge research

UW CSE has risen to prominence by generating innovations in emerging areas of the field:

Mobile health: UW researchers are leveraging increasingly sophisticated smartphone sensors to diagnose and manage disease in ways that will improve the quality of life for people globally.

Neural engineering: UW is at the forefront of research at the intersection of computing and neuroscience — developing brain-computer interfaces that could enable people suffering from paralysis to move again.

Artificial intelligence: UW has developed expertise in artificial intelligence, computer vision, machine learning, natural language processing and robotics. Several UW researchers split their time with other leading AI organizations, including the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Next-generation data storage: UW and Microsoft Research have launched an ambitious project to revolutionize data storage based on DNA. Last year the team set a world record for the amount of digital data encoded and retrieved using strands of synthetic DNA.

Data science: A leader in the data science revolution, the UW is advancing tools and techniques of data-intensive discovery and putting them to work in the physical sciences, life sciences, environmental sciences and social sciences.

crowd at CSE 50th anniversary celebration and Paul G. Allen gift announcement