Harvard dropout Bill Gates to get honorary degree



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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Bill Gates is finally getting his Harvard degree -- 32 years after he walked away from the university on the path to becoming the world's wealthiest person.

Gates, billionaire co-founder of Microsoft Corp., philanthropist and college dropout, will receive an honorary degree June 7 when he delivers Harvard University's 356th commencement address.

"His contributions to the world of business and technology, and the great example he has set through his far-reaching philanthropy, will rightfully put him on center stage in Harvard Yard," Harvard Alumni Association President Paul Finnegan said in a statement.

Gates is considered a member of Harvard's Class of 1977, which celebrates its 30th reunion this year. He first came to the university in 1973 but left in 1975 to devote his time to developing Microsoft, which he founded that year with childhood friend Paul Allen.

Gates helped turn Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft into the world's largest maker of computer software, with revenues of more than $44 billion during the 2006 fiscal year. He was the company's chief executive until 2000 and still serves as chairman.

Gates and his wife, Melinda, created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, which is now the world's largest philanthropic foundation with an endowment of about $33 billion. The foundation concentrates on promoting global health, ending poverty and hunger, and enhancing education. The Gates Foundation also is a major donor to Harvard.

Jack Reardon, Harvard's associate vice president for university relations, said there was no particular reason why the university waited until this year to honor Gates. He said Harvard considers many people for honorary degrees every year.

Forbes magazine earlier this year estimated Gates' worth at $56 billion, making him the world's richest person.