According to organizers, the award marks the first time that Gates has accepted any award from a Jewish/Israel-related organization. It is among the first philanthropic announcements from his foundation since Gates ceased day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft on June 27 in order to dedicate himself full-time to duties at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates will be honored at a gala dinner to be held in New York in December 2008. Proceeds from the dinner will help to fund plant and animal science research at The Hebrew University's Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences in Israel. The Faculty, which is the first and only degree-granting academic institution of its kind in Israel, has become a world leader in the development of innovations such as drip irrigation, soil solarization, aquaculture, functional foods and new techniques for wastewater reclamation.
"The Einstein Award represents the creation of a continuum of great minds and was inspired by the legacy of Albert Einstein, a founding father of our university who wrought a profound revolution in human understanding of our world," said Hebrew University President, Professor Menachem Magidor in a press release. "The award pays tribute to today's most original, creative and effective thinkers. Bill Gates is a most worthy recipient -- like Einstein, he is a leader whose actions stem from the knowledge that human progress includes alleviating human suffering."
More from the press release:
"As the founder, chief software architect and chairman of Microsoft, Gates led the company to become the worldwide leader in business and personal software, services, and solutions. He began his major philanthropic efforts in 1994 when he created the William H. Gates Foundation, which focused on global health. Three years later, he and Melinda Gates created the Gates Library Foundation, which worked to bring public access computers with Internet connections to libraries in the United States. The two groups merged in 2000 to form the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
"Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is organized into three programs -- Global Development, Global Health, and United States. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people -- especially those with the fewest resources -- have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. The foundation supports grantees in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Internationally, it supports work in more than 100 countries."
"Stated AFHU President George A. Schieren: 'We are truly privileged to be honoring Bill Gates, who in addition to his revolutionary approach to information technology, is making a profound difference in the lives of millions worldwide confronting hunger, resource scarcity and health threats -- all of which Israel faced and has successfully overcome since 1942, when The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences was established.'"
"The Hebrew University's Robert H. Smith Faculty is currently rolling out its "Feeding the World through Sustainable Agriculture" campaign. Departments are being organized to form a pioneering interdisciplinary four-Institute model. Physical campus improvements and program innovations will enable scientists to accelerate their work in addressing world hunger, malnutrition and environmental threats, particularly as affects people in developing nations and semi-arid climates. In addition to educating Israel's students, the Faculty's Division of External Studies educates international students from more than 150 countries."
Bill Gates last days at Microsoft