Melinda Gates is best known as Bill’s other half. People close to the family even say she’s his better half.
Here are eleven facts you didn’t know about the other half of the world’s wealthiest couple:
1. Melinda Gates (neè French) grew up in Dallas, Texas with her parents — her mother was a stay-at-home wife and her father was an aerospace engineer — and her three siblings.The family belonged to the local Roman Catholic parish.
2. The Frenches were determined to send all four of their children to college so Melinda’s father started a side business for rental properties. “We would help him run the business and keep the books,” she said. “We saw money coming in and money going out.”
3. Melinda was valedictorian and head of the drill team at her high school, Ursuline Academy of Dallas. In 2007, the Gates Foundation donated a total of $7 million to Ursuline for the construction of The French Family Science, Math, and Technology Center, a 70,000 sq. ft. LEED Gold certified laboratory and classroom building.
4. She went on to earn a double bachelor’s degree in computer science and economics from Duke University and an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business within five years.
5. Melinda’s dedication to her school work did not hamper her social life. She was a member of Duke’s Beta Rho chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. In a 1995 interview, a sorority sister remembered her as a serial monogamist and a reserved dresser.
6. Shortly after graduation, Melinda was recruited by Microsoft just after the company went public and stocks began to soar. During her time at the company, she was project manager of Microsoft Bob, Microsoft Encarta, and Expedia.
7. At a company picnic, Bill asked Melinda if she’d like to join him on a date in two weeks. She turned him down because he wasn’t spontaneous enough. Within an hour, Bill asked to take her out that night and she agreed. They kept a low-profile at work and asked co-workers and family members to respect their privacy.
8. Melinda calls the couple’s first trip to Africa in 1993 “the turning point”. During a walk on the beach in Zanzibar, they decided to do something about the devastation they’d seen. Thus, The Gates Foundation was born.
9. In 1994, after seven years of dating, Bill and Melinda married in a secret ceremony on the 17th hole of a Hawaiian golf course after a pre-wedding fireworks display and a performance by Willie Nelson. Melinda reportedly paid less than $20,000 for her wedding dress and reception outfit.
10. Melinda gave birth to her three children in 1996, 1999, and 2002. The Gates children will not be given trust funds or inheritances from their wealthy parents. “We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing,” Melinda was quoted as saying last year.
11. Speaking on the legacy she hopes to leave: “On the day I die, I want people to think that I was a great mom and a great family member and a great friend. I care about that more than I care about anything else.”