PULLMAN, Wash. — Microsoft co-founder, investor and philanthropist Paul Allen will receive the Washington State University Regents Distinguished Alumnus Award, the WSU Board of Regents announced Friday.
Allen will accept the award, the university’s highest alumni honor, in Pullman on May 8 during WSU’s 103rd commencement ceremonies. He attended WSU from 1971 through 1974, when he left the university to work in the computer industry in Boston and then founded a small software company, Micro Soft, with his friend Bill Gates.
Allen, now one of the richest and most influential men in the world, left Microsoft in 1982 but remains the company’s second largest stockholder and a member of the board of directors. He owns numerous high-tech, sports, and music interests, including the Seattle Seahawks, the Portland Trailblazers, Asymetrix Learning Systems, Seattle’s Union Station and the Experience Music Museum. His vision for a “Wired World” has been advanced through numerous investments in technological companies and through the Paul G. Allen Virtual Education Foundation, which supports innovative technological projects.
“This award is the highest honor WSU can bestow upon its alumni,” said Peter Goldmark, vice president of the Board of Regents. “It is given only to those who demonstrate extraordinary accomplishment and vision that contributes to the betterment of our world.” The 28 past recipients include famed broadcaster Edward R. Murrow ’30; Neva Martin Abelson ’34, developer of the Rh blood factor test; Orville Vogel ’39, wheat breeder whose work sparked the Green Revolution; Keith Jackson ’54, ABC sports broadcaster; Laurence J. Peter ’63, co-author of the international best seller, “The Peter Principle”; William Julius Wilson ’66, Harvard sociologist and author known worldwide for his analysis of the black underclass; and Gary Larson ’72, famed Far Side cartoonist.
Allen, who will address the Class of 1999 during his acceptance of the award, was a member of Phi Kappa Theta fraternity during his years at WSU. In 1996, he built a $3.1 million state-of-the-art house for his fraternity and wired all of WSU’s 41 sororities and fraternities for the Internet. Through the Virtual Education Foundation, he has supported the development of online courseware at WSU. His fraternity brother and longtime business associate, Bert Kolde, will introduce Allen at commencement. Kolde graduated from WSU in 1976 with a degree in business administration.