Remembering Our Friend & Humanitarian Visionary Bill Gates Sr.

Sep 23, 2020

It is with great sadness we share the news of William H. Gates Senior’s passing on Monday, September 14, 2020.

Bill Gates Sr. has many profound legacies, but the one that resonates most with us is the investment in the vision that created the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“His dedication to fighting global inequity and uplifting the voices of others inspired our mission, and enables the Gates Institute to train the leaders of today and tomorrow, engage in groundbreaking research, lead innovative programs, and make “positive disruptions” to increase family planning access and improve reproductive health for women and men, communities and countries across the world,” says Jose G. Rimon II, Director of the Gates Institute and Senior Scientist in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health.

When family planning lost its prominence on the global agenda in the 1980s and 1990s, Bill Gates Sr. helped to ensure that it earned a spotlight once again in policies and programs across the globe. Even before the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was formed, he was operating on his own in the basement of his house on pressing humanitarian issues, which resulted in a seminal investment in Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to identify and train the “leaders of tomorrow” across the world in the family planning and reproductive health landscape.

In addition to his deep dedication to creating a more equitable world, Bill Gates Sr. was generous, kind, and profound to all those who knew him. Dr. Funmi OlaOlorun, a former Gates Scholar who is now a faculty member at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria remarks, “I was struck by how humble he was, his simplicity, and that he was such a great listener. He was truly interested, and that has stayed with me.”

Dr. Laurie Zabin, Founding Director of the Gates Institute who sadly passed earlier this year, fondly remembered, “when Bill asked a question, it opened your vision. It raised your ideals. It made you think bigger, not smaller. And I’ve always loved him for that.” She continued saying, “I’d like to think that our Gates Institute is a powerful force for good in the developing world, I know it is a force for good for those people that it touches, and I think that he should be very, very proud of that.”

“Bill Gates Sr.’s far-reaching concerns for the global wellbeing of humankind was rooted in seeing the injustices of poverty, ill health and unequal opportunity.  He used his own intellect, opportunities and privileges to invest in promising ventures to level the playing fields, including supporting the learning of population and reproductive health science by individuals and institutions that could transform their own environments, generation after generation.  His vision, generosity and confidence in academia, among the many agents of change, was profoundly transformational itself.  He singularly exemplified what greatness can mean, without seeking attention,” shared Dr. Amy Tsui, Professor Emerata and former Director of the Gates Institute.

Bill Gates Sr.’s legacy was recognized and honored by the reproductive health community worldwide with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018. The Gates Institute dedicated its Twelve-year Report in his honor in 2017. His powerful role in raising the profile of family planning and reproductive health across the globe and in the creation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute was documented in a video celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Institute last year. The family planning community will continue to honor Bill Gates Sr. and his legacy long into the future.

As we remember and celebrate the momentous impact Bill Gates Sr. had on the world, we remain dedicated to being a force for good and a global leader in social change. He will be greatly missed.

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