Bill Gates to visit Oct. 1 for dedication and conversation

Bill Gates

Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates will be on campus Oct. 1 to dedicate Bill & Melinda Gates Hall, the new Computing and Information Science (CIS) building overlooking Hoy Field, and to engage in a public, student-centered discussion in Bailey Hall.

Cornell President David J. Skorton and CIS Dean Haym Hirsh will join Gates for the dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. at the plaza entrance to the new building, which is the home of the Departments of Computer Science and Information Science, previously housed in various locations on and off campus. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donated $25 million for the $60 million project. The building dedication is being held in conjunction with the Department of Computer Science’s 50th anniversary celebration, Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

At 4:30 p.m. Gates and Skorton will present “A Conversation With Bill Gates: Considering the Future of Higher Education” in Bailey Hall. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. Topics will include access to and affordability of higher education; student entrepreneurship; and technology and education. A Q&A with the audience will follow. Free tickets are required, and they will be available to students (student ID required) beginning Sept. 22 and to the general public Sept. 25, at the Willard Straight Hall Ticket Office. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door starting at 3:30 p.m. The event will be live-streamed on CornellCast.

“Bill & Melinda Gates Hall is a real game-changer for CIS,” said Hirsh. “Being in one location facilitates research collaboration – and expands and strengthens the educational experience that we provide our students.” CIS – which comprises the Departments of Computer Science, Information Science and Statistical Science – has approximately 500 undergraduate majors and 350 graduate students, and thousands of students from every college enroll in CIS courses.

Along with faculty offices, Gates Hall houses research and teaching labs, including labs for cybersecurity, human-computer interaction, computational sustainability, robotics and computer vision, and a 150-seat lecture hall. The tall, steel and glass structure incorporates natural-light-washed communal spaces in a four-level atrium designed to encourage collaboration. The building is expected to qualify for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold rating for energy efficiency. Construction began in April 2012, and faculty and students began moving in last January.

Thom Mayne, founder and design director of the New York- and Los Angeles-based architecture firm Morphosis and winner of the 2005 Pritzker Prize in architecture is the lead architect. Mayne, who also designed Cornell Tech’s first academic building on Roosevelt Island, won the American Institute of Architects’ 2013 Gold Medal, one of the profession’s highest honors.

Founded in 1997, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the world. It works to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty, to harness advances in science and technology, to save lives in developing countries, to improve U.S. high school and postsecondary education, and to build strategic relationships and promote policies that will advance its work.

During his visit to campus, Gates will meet with researchers and students at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences involved with food and agriculture projects, many supported by the Gates Foundation, including the Next Generation Cassava Breeding project and other efforts to combat plant diseases and enhance food and grain production worldwide.

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Syl Kacapyr