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Dartmouth Establishes William H. Neukom Institute for Computational Science

Dartmouth has been known for innovations in computer science, in both application and theory, dating back to the computer's earliest days. Now, through a generous commitment of $22 million, William H. Neukom '64, chair of the Seattle law firm Preston Gates & Ellis and the former executive vice president of law and corporate affairs at Microsoft Corp., will establish an Institute for Computational Science that will continue the College's legacy of leadership in computing. Neukom is a Dartmouth trustee and a member of the class of 1964.

The commitment, made in honor of his family, is the largest gift in Dartmouth's history for an academic program. Part of Neukom's gift is a challenge to other supporters of the College to raise an additional $12 million that ultimately will provide the institute with resources of $34 million.

Photo of group of Trustees
(Front row, L-R) Trustee Russell L. Carson '65, chair of the board Susan Dentzer '77, and president James Wright, with (back row, L-R) trustees William H. Neukom '64 and Peter Fahey '68 at the March meeting of the board of trustees. Neukom announced a $22 million commitment through the Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience to establish the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth. Carson and Fahey are the co-chairs of the campaign's nucleus fund. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

"Dartmouth has a proud history of combining computing innovation and a commitment to undergraduate liberal arts education that prepares its graduates to play leadership roles in the careers they choose," says president James Wright. "Their success regularly affirms our success. This extraordinary generosity from a dedicated alumnus will assure our continuing strength in this crucially important field."

Computational science has been called a "pivotal discipline," creating new tools for study in fields ranging from the life sciences to engineering, chemistry, earth sciences, and psychological and brain sciences, according to Dartmouth provost Barry Scherr. Computational models increasingly are playing important roles in the social sciences and humanities as well, Scherr says, noting that the institute will enrich the quality of undergraduate learning at Dartmouth by offering courses at the leading edge of computational science and will foster collaboration between faculty and students across disciplines.

The institute follows closely the College's establishment of the Leslie Center for the Humanities in 1999 and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL) earlier this year. All are committed to interdisciplinary studies, innovation in their fields, and involving undergraduates and graduate students in their programs.

"It seemed to me that this initiative can both enhance the learning experience and contribute to critical research in the arts and sciences," Neukom says. "I hope that through this institute, Dartmouth will continue to have a leading role in pushing the frontiers of computation."

"I hope that through this institute, Dartmouth will continue to have a leading role in pushing the frontiers of computation."

- William H. Neukom '64

Reflecting on his philanthropy, Neukom says, "The College provided me a priceless liberal arts education, and as I continued to learn about the remarkable academic experience it provides for its diverse student body and faculty, I wanted to do something significant for Dartmouth. Investing some Microsoft equity in computational science seemed natural and appropriate.

Wright noted that Neukom's contributions have advanced many different areas of the College. A strong supporter of financial aid, he has established a scholarship fund in honor of his parents. His philanthropy and volunteer leadership at Dartmouth have touched the Dartmouth College Fund, the Arts and Sciences Dean's Council, the Hood Museum of Art, the Tucker Foundation, the Dartmouth Lawyers Association, and the Dartmouth Outing Club. He has been a Dartmouth trustee since 1996 and is a vice chair of the College's current Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience.

Computational Science at Dartmouth

Computational science is a relatively new discipline, and many of the existing programs focus more on its role in research than in undergraduate education. Scherr says Dartmouth will make computational science widely accessible to its undergraduates at the same time it enhances the quality of the faculty's work in a range of fields. The institute also will address student demand for computer science, which has seen enrollments double over the last decade.

A core group of four new faculty positions will establish the institute, with a distinguished senior faculty member in computational science serving as the institute's director. Since the faculty positions are intended to broaden the range of fields in which students will be exposed to computational science, at least two of the faculty appointments will be in departments other than computer science. The institute also will establish undergraduate research opportunities, as well as graduate and post-doctoral fellowships. An annual symposium on computational science will be shaped by the institute's director and will provide opportunities to give visibility to innovative work in the field.

Dartmouth's rich history in computer science began in the late 1940s, when the College demonstrated the first remote access to a digital computer. In 1955, Dartmouth mathematician John McCarthy coined the term "artificial intelligence" and hosted a two-month summer conference on the subject. In 1964, mathematicians John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz developed the time-sharing prototype and the computer language BASIC, which was refined by General Electric into the largest commercial time-sharing system.

Since then, Dartmouth has developed one of the nation's leading campus networks. A decade ago it was considered the "most wired campus," and now it is renowned for being "wireless" and having a highly computer literate student body. Dartmouth faculty and students have won prestigious awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowships, and the Computer Research Association's Outstanding Undergraduate Award, among others.

"Our ability to explore with our students many of the great issues of our day depends on computational science because it touches so many fields of study," says Dartmouth's dean of faculty Michael Gazzaniga '61. "Collaboration on a broad basis requires a catalyst. The institute will be that catalyst. We're grateful for Bill's exceptional gift."

The Road to Philanthropy

Bill Neukom was named chair of the law firm of Preston Gates & Ellis in January, having rejoined the firm as a partner in the Seattle office in the fall of 2002, following 24 years as the lead lawyer for Microsoft. For 17 of those years, he was Microsoft's general counsel and chief legal officer, managing the company's legal, government affairs and philanthropic activities. He was a partner in Bill Gates's father's Seattle law firm in 1979 when he was asked to represent the then 12-person company that had just moved to Washington State. He joined Microsoft in 1985 and went on to build one of the most respected corporate law departments in the country, from an initial staff of five to more than 600 colleagues.

Neukom led Microsoft's efforts to establish, distribute, and enforce intellectual property rights around the world, and managed the landmark legal victory in Apple Computer vs. Microsoft Corp., which ran from 1988 to 1995. He also led the Microsoft defense of antitrust claims brought by the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the European Union, which culminated in consent decrees in 1994 and 2001.

Under Neukom's direction, Microsoft's community affairs program initiated the Microsoft Giving Campaign, the Microsoft Matching Gifts Program, the Microsoft Volunteer Program, and Libraries Online!, among other national projects. He is on the boards of a number of civic organizations, including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, YMCA of Greater Seattle, and the University of Puget Sound, and he serves on the Stanford Law School Dean's Strategic Council. He has been active in organized bar work for more than 30 years, and currently serves as chair of the American Bar Association's decennial Governance Commission and, as state delegate, heads the Washington State delegation to the ABA House of Delegates.

Neukom entered Dartmouth from San Mateo High School in California, where his principal, "an accomplished educator," was a Dartmouth graduate. "My parents had the blessings of a University of Chicago education, which contributed to my appreciation of an intense, first-quality undergraduate experience at Dartmouth," Neukom says. "I learned how to try to think critically and write clearly while at Dartmouth, thanks to attentive faculty and bright classmates, and I fell in love with its 'sense of place' in that welcoming and beautiful part of upper New England." After college, Neukom returned to California, where he graduated from Stanford Law School in 1967.

Three of Neukom's children attended Dartmouth and "appreciated the quality of the teaching, backed up by great scholarship," he says. "They all made lifetime friends and went on to excel at demanding graduate work. Dartmouth prepared them well for that work with talented classmates from competing institutions. They are well along the road of useful citizenship. That speaks well for our alma mater."

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Last Updated: 7/24/18