We've all heard about the impact of the state's budget woes on institutions of higher education in Washington.
For the past couple of years, it has seemed like we've had a never-ending stream of cuts in spending and tightening of expenses.
To combat the extreme belt-tightening, Washington State University has quietly soldiered on with a massive fundraising campaign. And that effort recently received a big boost with a $26 million donation by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
That's a significant chunk of change in any budget year, but it's especially welcome in the current climate.
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Allen's gift is the largest in WSU's history, and coincidentally bested the donation by the other big name from Microsoft, Bill Gates.
Allen's donation is earmarked for the School for Global Animal Health in Pullman. Construction started on the facility during the summer, with the building paid for in part by a $25 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Even though WSU already has raised $500 million of its $1 billion goal by 2015, the university formally kicked-off the fundraising efforts by announcing Allen's donation.
The school will study how diseases are transferred from animals to humans. And should you wonder why that's important, you need to think globally. Roughly three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases begin in animals. Some examples: Ebola, avian flu, HIV.
Global animal health is an important initiative for all of us.
Animal health also has significant economic impacts. If disease ravages the livestock a third-world farmer uses to make his living and nourish his family, the loss has a broad ripple effect on the family's economic future.
WSU has a long history in animal science, and by combining that with other strong programs in agriculture and microbiology, it makes sense for the university to become a leading researcher in the industry. The school has people working in Africa to build partnerships to study global animal health.
In tough economic times such as these, it takes the vision and generosity of folks such as Bill Gates and Paul Allen to keep higher education afloat and evolving.
Allen dropped out of WSU to take a computer programming job, and we know how that worked out. (However, it's not the recommended path for most students.)
He is the 37th richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $13.5 billion. Go, Cougs!