Ric Weiland, the massively wealthy benefactor of gay and HIV-related causes, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on July 1st at the age of 53, after suffering long bouts of depression. Weiland was one of the five original Microsoft employees, hired by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975. Weiland developed BASIC and COBOL for Microsoft, launching the company into its global dominance of personal computing.
I don't know how I missed the news of his death last week, as I've always been fascinated by Weiland. When I lived in San Francisco, Weiland was a frequent topic of conversation among my friends who worked in high tech. Here's a guy who walked away from Microsoft in 1988, and launched a new life as an ardent supporter of gay rights and HIV-research, donating $100 million over the years. Among his pet projects were Gay & Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) , the Human Rights Campaign, Lamba Legal, and the National Gay And Lesbian Task Force.
I was thinking about Weiland just a couple of weeks ago when Warren Buffet announced his multi-billion endowment to the Gates Fund. No matter what you feel about Microsoft Inc. and its policies, the unprecedented amount of Microsoft-generated capital that is being dedicated to improving the human condition is awe-inspiring. I'd always thought it was fantastic that so much of that money was coming to gay causes, thanks to Weiland. I'll be interested to see what sort of legacy his estate will establish.