Melinda French Gates, along with William Henry 'Bill' Gates, run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which they started in 2000. It is the largest privately-owned foundation in the world.
Melinda Gates holds a seat on the board of directors of the Washington Post company. She retired from the board of Drugstore.com in August 2006 to spend more time working for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The primary aims of the foundation are, globally, to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty, and in America, to expand educational opportunities and access to information technology. The foundation, based in Seattle, Washington, is controlled by its three trustees: Bill Gates, Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Other principal officers include Co-Chair William H. Gates, Sr. and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Raikes. It has an endowment of US$35.1 billion as of October 1, 2008. The scale of the foundation and the way it seeks to apply business techniques to giving makes it one of the leaders in the philanthrocapitalism revolution in global philanthropy, though the foundation itself notes that the philanthropic role has limitations. In 2007 its founders were ranked as the second most generous philanthropists in America.
To maintain its status as a charitable foundation, it must donate at least 5% of its assets each year. Thus the donations from the foundation each year would amount to over US$1.5 billion at a minimum.
The Foundation has been organized, as of April 2006, into four divisions, including core operations (public relations, finance and administration, human resources, etc.), under Chief Operating Officer Cheryl Scott, and three grant-making programs:
* Global Health Program
* Global Development Program
* United States Program
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will give hundreds of millions of dollars in the next few years to programs aimed at encouraging saving by the world's poor, the Wall Street Journal reported, presumably under a new grant-making program.
Gates was born and raised in Dallas, Texas to Raymond Joseph French, Jr., an engineer, and Elaine Agnes Amerland, a stay-at-home mother. Melinda attended St. Monica Catholic School, then earned a bachelor degree in computer science and economics from Duke University in 1986. She returned in 1987 for an MBA from Duke's Fuqua School of Business, and served as a member of Duke University's board of trustees from 1996 to 2003.
She met Bill Gates in 1987 at a Microsoft press event in Manhattan. She is an alumna of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She married Gates on January 1, 1994 in a private ceremony in Lanai, Hawaii. They have three children.
In December 2005, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with musician Bono, were named by Time as Persons of the Year.
The Gates couple received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation on May 4 2006 in recognition of their philanthropic work.
She was ranked #40 in Forbes magazine list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in 2008, #24 in 2007, and #12 in 2006.
In November 2006, she and her husband were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".
On 12th of June 2009 Melinda and Bill Gates received honorary degrees from the University of Cambridge. Their benefaction of $210 million in 2000 set up the Gates Cambridge Trust, which funds postgraduate scholars from outside the UK to study at the University.