At Microsoft we are very proud of our alumni and the opportunities we have to work together.  I have the pleasure of serving on the board of directors for the Microsoft Alumni Foundation, which was established in 2007 to catalyze the collective power of the Microsoft Alumni family to have a positive impact in the community.   Last night I attended the third annual Microsoft Alumni Foundation  celebration event, which recognized former Microsoft employees who are making a difference in the world. 

The event took place at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters, which is arguably the most well-known philanthropic organization led by Microsoft alumni.  But what many people don’t know is that many of the 80,000 Microsoft alumni around the world have become extremely involved in philanthropic work.  These individuals are a great illustration of the lifecycle of philanthropy that often starts at Microsoft, where we have a culture of giving and volunteerism among our company and employees, and continues when people leave the company. 

The annual celebration is one of my favorite events of the year, not only because I get to reconnect with old colleagues, but because I get to see and hear how so many of them are deeply engaged in philanthropic work and are achieving amazing results.

The highlight of last night’s event was the announcement of this year’s Integral Fellows Awards.  We started the Integral Fellows Award program in 2009 to recognize outstanding alumni that have either started a nonprofit organization or are an exceptional volunteer or manager for the nonprofit they support.  These individuals are committed, passionate and have dedicated their lives to help address challenges around the world.  

The winners included:

  • Oliver Hurst-Hiller – Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President of DonorsChoose.org.  Drawing upon his Microsoft experience helping to engineer Bing, DonorsChoose uses technology to match the needs of public schools in the United States with individual donors on a large scale.  Over the past 5 years, Oliver has grown classroom donations from $5 million to $32 million by enriching the online donor experience and scaling to handle surging teacher requests.  Read his full story here.
  • Tom Ikeda – Founder and Executive Director of Densho.  Tom uncovered his true passion during his seven years at Microsoft working on multimedia titles such as Encarta and Bookshelf.  After digging deeper into the struggles and sacrifices barely mentioned in history books, in 1996 Tom founded Densho.  Densho creates media-rich online archives that preserve historical artifacts and educate students around the world on the untold stories of Japanese American internment during World War II.  Read his full story here.
  • David Risher – Co-Founder of Worldreader.  During a visit to the Perpetuo Socorro girls’ orphanage in Guayaquil, Ecuador, David observed piles of books inside its semi-abandoned library and learned that children had lost interest in the mildewing books. David realized the profound impact that e-readers could have on the way the developing world learns to read. Worldreader provides digital e-readers with localized content in developing countries around the world.  Read his story here.

Each of the winners received a $25,000 award to go to the nonprofit organization with which they work in the form of a one-year, unrestricted grant.   And, the Alumni Foundation surprised the other finalists with $5,000 each for their organizations.  Past Integral Fellows Award recipients have included Richard Gold from Pongo Teen Writing, Frank Schott from NetHope, Cliff Schmidt from Literacy Bridge, Patrick Awuah from Ashesi University Foundation, Trish Millines Dziko from Technology Access Foundation and John Wood from Room to Read.

As Mahnaz Javid, one of the finalists, said last night, philanthropy is not just an activity – it’s a way of life and defines who are.  These great individuals are living philanthropy.

I am very proud of all of this year’s Integral Fellows Awards winners as well as the exceptional pool of nominees.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will feature blog posts from each of the winners.