In Memoriam to Bill Gates, Sr.

By Karl Hofmann, President & CEO, PSI 

Let me add our voices to those who have paid tribute to Bill Gates, Sr. His remarkable contributions to the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its earliest phases and undoubtedly throughout his life since have been impressive for their wide scope and deep, thoughtful impact. 

One part of Bill Sr.’s legacy that deserves special appreciation is the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School in Baltimore. 

The most recent decade of reawakening around the importance of family planning is rightly credited to Melinda Gates’ leadership of the 2012 London Summit process along with what was then the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID)now referred to as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.Indeed, she champions a regular series of International Family Planning Conferences (ICFP) — the next of which we hope will be post-COVID-19  in Thailand next November— and the launch and continuation of FP2020 with its aim to help close the gap between those who want access to modern contraception and those who have it. With movement-building moments like these came new appreciation and momentum around family planning and reproductive health issues, despite the determined opposition to this agenda from many regressive forces around the globe. 

The role of the now 21-year-old Gates Institute in this early and sustained “new energy” for family planning must be laid at Bill Gates Sr’s feet. The Gates Institute was Bill Sr.’s initiative, long before the London Summit and even before Melinda Gates’ own leadership on these issues. The Gates Institute is the organizing and sponsoring institution for ICFP and a host of other programmatic work helping to push this agenda forward. PSI has been proud to partner with the Gates Institute on a number of these programs, including The Challenge Initiative, which has allowed us to explore new approaches to urban reproductive health issues. 

The Gates Institute also, and crucially, has been the host and inspiration for many new champions of family planning and reproductive health in projects such as its 120 under 40 campaign with Bayer and other partners. This platform has helped nurture the next generation of sexual and reproductive health and rights leadership around the world. 

Bill Gates Jr. has written of his late father that he was the real Bill Gates.” Bill Sr.’s role in establishing the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins University will be a legacy felt around the world long after we bid our farewell. 


Banner image courtesy of Flickr/Lester Public Library

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