Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has given Harvard University an unknown amount of money to significantly expand the school’s computer science department, it was announced Thursday.
Ballmer, now owner of the NBA’s L.A. Clippers, graduated from Harvard College in 1977. He said in a statement that Harvard’s computer science department is “small, but excellent,” and believes a faculty expansion will allow the university to build a preeminent program. Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement that “we’re so grateful for Steve’s game-changing support and welcome this opportunity for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to take full advantage of the entire University’s distributed strengths.”
While Harvard nor Ballmer disclosed the exact amount of the gift, Ballmer told The New York Times that it would allow Harvard’s computer science faculty to expand from its current number of 24 to about 35.
Though Harvard is top-ranked as a national university, its computer science program is ranked at number 18, behind programs at Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford and UC Berkeley, which are tied for the top spot, according to U.S. News & World Report. Still, Harvard undergraduates have demonstrated a rising interest in computer science, with the number of students concentrating in the field more than doubling between 2009 and 2013, according to the university’s handbook for students. A record-breaking 818 students enrolled in Harvard’s popular introductory computer science class, CS50, this semester.