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Microsoft Education

Bill Gates to Finally Receive His Harvard Degree 336

coondoggie writes "It's not like he needs it to beef up his résumé, but the world's richest college dropout finally is getting his degree. Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, will speak at Harvard University's commencement ceremony in June and, like all commencement speakers, will receive an honorary degree from the institution. It's hard to guess if Gates, the wealthiest person in the world and co-founder of a company that brought in $44 billion in revenue last year, cares. But the programming whiz who once dropped out of Harvard will likely feel some sense of satisfaction."
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Bill Gates to Finally Receive His Harvard Degree

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  • Rich man's GED (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:23AM (#18455359)
    I tend to view the bachelors degree as the high school diploma of the 21st century...
    so I guess that makes the honorary degree something akin to a rich man's GED.
  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:29AM (#18455383) Homepage
    It's hard to guess if Gates, the wealthiest person in the world and co-founder of a company that brought in $44 billion in revenue last year, cares.

    Well, he certainly must care, as he's obviously not doing it for the money.
  • Not a doctorate? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:34AM (#18455419)
    I though that was the usual honourary gift to the successful.
  • Re:huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:43AM (#18455459)
    Honorary degrees are never awarded to anyone with any likelihood of having a job interview or seeking a teaching or research job.
  • by nyet ( 19118 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:46AM (#18455467) Homepage
    Hardly. He was just the whiny wannabe PHB who wanted to get paid. Allen did all the work originally; the rest was ripped from Gary Kildall (RIP).
  • by Jartan ( 219704 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:51AM (#18455491)
    The submitter blurbs have always been horrible but calling Gates a programming whiz really takes the cake on the worst ones I've seen recently.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @03:57AM (#18455517)
    As a drop-out-done-good myself (probably doing better than anyone I ever went to school with as well as the teachers and administrators), I would probably react to an honorary degree with a big fuck you. Like someone who stuck it out on their own and made something great for themselves in the world inevitably need some stamp of approval from a bunch of nose-in-the-air academic snoots?
  • by gavink42 ( 1000674 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @04:25AM (#18455599)
    Sure, going to college for 4 (or more) years can teach a person some good information. But the skills learned from life experience are usually much more important!

    I have no degree but take college courses (adult continuing education) that interest me. At some point in most of them, the prof will usually add a remark like: "...but of course we know that's not how it works in the real world."

    I'm not saying that they're teaching the wrong things in college, just that the average 18 year old will be learning mostly best-case theory. Most of the actual skills are learned during the early years in the workplace.

    Seems like it would be a better process to work in your desired field for a few years, then go for the degree. Or, at least participate heavily in an apprentice program. But I do realize that some career fields are not compatible with this paragraph.

  • by Rob Bos ( 3399 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @04:36AM (#18455655) Homepage
    Love or hate the guy, he's certainly earned degree equivalency. Business Administration, most likely; they said in the article that Harvard doesn't announce which subject in advance.

    If it's computing science, then I'd probably have a few words to say.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aqua OS X ( 458522 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @04:52AM (#18455715)
    Making more money then university faculty or administrative staff isn't very hard to do. You get into that line of work because you're making and impact and or getting solid benefits, not because you plan on owning a winter home in Aspen.

    And as for the "stamp of approval..." ... well, if you're attending a university for a stamp of approval you are, at the very least, not utilizing that resource properly.
  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @05:06AM (#18455783) Homepage

    it's discouraging that such a top figure in computing really never had anything inspirational to say - at least pertaining the field.
    Gates' major achievements are as a businessman, not as a computer scientist. Not saying that he's stupid in that area; quite the opposite (e.g. given the speed he apparently designed MS BASIC with, he clearly has skill). However, he didn't actually invent BASIC (as a language) or even write MS-DOS originally. On the other hand, who can deny that he's a very skilled businessman?
  • Re:Good for him (Score:3, Insightful)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @05:11AM (#18455805) Homepage Journal
    Half of the people haven't even been charged with a crime in a competent court let alone convicted.

    It's nice that you assume that the Administration is innocent until proven guilty. I just wish they would return the favor and practice due process with their victims instead of engaging in rendition, torture, indefinite detention, disappearances, and etc all before any legal trial. I'd rather live in a republic than a junta.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 23, 2007 @05:15AM (#18455827)

    As a drop-out-done-good myself (probably doing better than anyone I ever went to school with as well as the teachers and administrators), I would probably react to an honorary degree with a big fuck you. Like someone who stuck it out on their own and made something great for themselves in the world inevitably need some stamp of approval from a bunch of nose-in-the-air academic snoots?
    Let's not forget that while Bill Gates is a shining example to college dropouts everywhere, he still did not get to where he is today by his wits and ruthless business strategies alone. He also had to stand on the shoulders of the engineers and programmers that wrote Windows, MS Office, etc. and most of those people were precisely the type of nose-in-the-air snoots with a college degree who didn't follow his example and drop out. Now you can probably defend your self by pointing to the quality of Windows, MS Office and other Microsoft products, which is perceived to be rather low in some quarters and argue that Bill hasn't been well served by those programmers and engineers anyway. I'd say that any shortcomings in Microsoft products are probably more the fault of Microsoft's management and it's history of practicing an approach to development and product testing schedules where marketing issues outweigh quality and proper development practices (i.e. Just develop it really fast... And who needs thorough software testing anyway?? It burns up to much time and drives up costs.) than they are the fault of the programmers and engineers who have to abide by them. I can remember what Windows 3.x and 98 used to be like, I can see how much of an improvement Windows XP and Vista are today. Neither is perfect mind you, my chief complaints with Windows 98 for example used to be: stability, lousy security and a UI that almost drove me insane with useless questions and endless 'Apply' buttons followed by far to many obligatory reboots. Microsoft has now more or less tackled the stability issue, they seem to be getting mildly serious about security but their UI still sucks although there are fewer reboots these days which is a plus. So Micosoft's management has learned quite a few painful lessons about the importance of professionalism and discipline in software development over the years since Windows 3.x and 98 came out, they have learned it the hard way and they seem to be learning mostly by falling on their faces.
  • What it also says (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swift2001 ( 874553 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @05:31AM (#18455889)
    "We notice you've made a lot of money and are therefore wise. We also notice you're not getting any younger, and you're giving away money. If you see anything you'd like to endow, please be in touch."
  • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @05:50AM (#18455991)

    Today, family and friends ask me to not mention any of this to their kids finishing high school/starting college.
    That's because nearly all dropouts end up working deadend menial jobs their entire lives.

    It's not the dot-com era anymore, companies aren't going to hire 17 year old dropouts as sysadmins. Your case was a complete one off, you may as well advise people to buy lottery tickets for a living.
  • by RWarrior(fobw) ( 448405 ) * on Friday March 23, 2007 @06:11AM (#18456093)
    Now if you really want to be somebody, get an honorary degree from Harvard outside of normal commencement exercises. You join this list of luminaries (plus a few others nobody born after World War II has heard of):
    • George Washington
    • Marquis de Lafyette
    • James Monroe
    • Andrew Jackson
    • Winston Churchill
    • Nelson Mandela
    That's real company.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:2, Insightful)

    by neonmonk ( 467567 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @06:53AM (#18456321)
    Yes, but he's giving a talk to people who are striving to get a degree. So he obviously sees it as something that's relatively worthwhile. He even tried to get one himself.

    I think you're putting too much stock into this "honorary degree," it of course isn't worth the paper it's written on and everyone knows that, including him.

    It's just nice to get recognition, who cares who it's from.

    That's all it is, recognition. If you're too high and mighty with your 'I did well in spite of having a degree Ha Ha Ha society take that!' then I think you're missing the point (and it's probably a good thing you didn't bother spending 4/5 years attaining a degree).
  • What skills are involved in admining boxes?

    Things I learned in college

    1. algebra
    2. calculus
    3. data structures
    4. algorithms [sorting, searching, etc]
    5. compiler theory
    6. numerical analysis
    7. and a host of practical courses, etc.

    And what do I do for a living? Software developer in the field of cryptography. So I need the math, algorithms, etc, etc. Yeah, granted I too taught myself a lot of my skills [like crypto], but to say college was a total waste because I had to sit through a "intro to C" class is ignorant.

    Maybe if you had a job that required talent you'd be talking differently. I'm sorry, but setting up servers, changing network settings, etc, isn't exactly a skilled labour. I mean it's a job, but don't pretend you're some tech god because you can make Apache start and host a page.

    Sorry for knocking you off your high horse, but you're advice is ignorant and misleading.

  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:5, Insightful)

    by StarvingSE ( 875139 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @07:19AM (#18456443)
    Why does there seem to be such a big hatred for college degrees here on slashdot? I'm not trying to flamebait or anything, but it seems that every time there is a story about college (especially computer science programs), there's always a bunch of people who chime in on how a degree is useless.

    It's not useless. Most companies require it for you to be able to work for them. A college degree (earned, not necessarily honorary) is valuable in that it shows that you can dedicate yourself to something and accomplish it. Also, for most people it's the first time they are on their own to figure out their own lives. At least for me, the life experiences during college are more valuable than the actual education. The college experience can be invaluable for discovering yourself and finding out how you want to live the rest of your life.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @07:28AM (#18456483) Homepage
    Easy answer? Sour Grapes.

    More indepth answer? If you assume a degree is synonymous with 'being qualified' you are incorrect. There are a large number of graduates who have yet to learn the 'tough lesson' that their degree doesn't actually carry much weight. So the Slashdot community is helpfully trying to get them focussed on the fact that a degree, or lack thereof, isn't a binary state factor. It's an enabler, and it's useful, but then... so is having spent 3 years 'in the industry' whilst everyone else was off getting their degree.

  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rikkards ( 98006 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @07:37AM (#18456511) Journal
    Stamp of approval?

    It's an honorary degree, it's more like saying "we recognise you as being prominent in this field and here's the proof."

    Not: "omglolwtf u didnt get a degree heres one now ur one of us!!1 lol"

    Actually honorary degrees are more of a "we need someone to speak at our graduation and we will give you one as payment". Nothing more, nothing less. Kind of cheapens what the real graduates are getting IMHO.
  • by clickclickdrone ( 964164 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @07:37AM (#18456515)
    Went back to collage under a pseudonym and got his own damned degree.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nharmon ( 97591 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @08:14AM (#18456775)
    It isn't that there is a hatred for college degrees, or even an attitude that they are completely useless. I think the attitude is that college degrees have unnecessarily become a "basic education" credential where the absence of carries with it a certain stigma. And I can certainly understand why people would be upset about that.

    Certainly college degrees aren't useless, but in the same respect they aren't completely necessary. I have a fairly well paying job without a bachelor's degree. However that being said, I am a part-time student pursuing a bachelor's degree, so obviously I do not view it as useless.
  • by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @08:28AM (#18456883)
    These honorary degrees are nothing but another PR stunt. Hey, maybe this is troll material, but having Bill Gates as a potential wealthy donor on your side never hurt anyone. Give him the honorary degree, make him feel very good, and donations, donations, donations. Had Bill Gates not risen to become the chairman of Microsoft, Harvard would have paid him no more mind than a fly on the wall. As other slashdotters have pointed out, Steve Wozniak went back to college and earned his degree.
  • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @08:46AM (#18457035) Journal
    quite the opposite (e.g. given the speed he apparently designed MS BASIC with, he clearly has skill). However, he didn't actually invent BASIC (as a language) or even write MS-DOS originally

    But, how /many/ people do you know that have "invented" or wrote original software?, I know I wont be very popular saying this over here but *even* Linus Trovalds took Minix as the basis for Linux, and he didnt *wrote* all of the Linux kernel you know. Technical people should not only be judged by the number of lines they write but by the *overall* influence they have to their field.

    Bill Gates has had a really HUGE influence to the field (some good, some bad, but in my opinion, more good than bad). I would think that he deserves more like a Master degree... maybe *even* a PhD (although maybe he is not familiar with research methodologies).

    I know here in slashdot more than 50% of people do not like him but I think overall, after he dies he will be nicely remembered as the guy who introduced computers to the masses.
  • by quixote9 ( 999874 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:26AM (#18457467) Homepage
    I am not happy. That's my alma mater. (Well, not so alma, and not so mater either, if you get right down to it.) I'm glad that's not my graduation year. Imagine having to sit there and listen to this guy gas on about the value of hard work while he's kneecapping as many companies as he can get at, pushing for as many cheap H1-B workers as it'll take to put those nice little Harvard grads right out of a job, and generally just being Bill Gates.

    (I'll admit the Gates Foundation does good philanthropic work, but for that I credit his wife. I never heard of him doing that stuff before he got married.)
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:3, Insightful)

    by merlin262 ( 677269 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @09:55AM (#18457827)
    I think it's just part of the slashdot demographic.

    Let me illustrate an average slashdot poster. I met a friend of a friend. The conversation went like this.

    "So, where do you work?"

    "I'm actually not right now"

    "Oh, so what school are you going to?"

    "I'm not going to college, the school messed me up"

    "Oh, ok"

    This person lives w/ their parents, and claims to enjoy "intelligent conversation". When you consider the number of self-styled experts that know everything on a subject, I'd say you have a large number of people like this here. They are too smart for school, too good for a job, and thus live at home w/ their parents. They explain this meaningless existance by posting on slashdot and talking about why these things don't matter.

    In short, the reason why that is often posted: Virgins.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kdfosterjr ( 903298 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:49AM (#18458587)
    College degrees pretty much say "I can be taught." It does not say what you were taught, nor does it say what you know. Just last week I had to instruct a person with a PhD in his title along with the position of "Chief Technology Officer" on how to read an e-mail header. I do not think that everyone is against degrees, I feel that most are against what Corporate America places on degrees. I myself have worked in the IT field for about 30+ years, I dropped out of college after my second year. I have worked for my present company for 17 years. If I were to apply today for my current job I would not be qualified. I do not have a degree. That is what erks everyone. Bill Gates is not qualified for the position he currently holds. His own company would not hire him if he were to apply today. He does not have a degree.
  • Programming whiz? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by seandiggity ( 992657 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:54AM (#18458653) Homepage
    "Programming whiz"? I've heard others say this also, but what exactly was Billy boy so good at (besides sending nasty letters [wikipedia.org] to early innovators)?
    I'm under the impression that he made his mark by announcing vaporware and then coming up with something quick (primarily using someone else's work), before showing it off to potential buyers (e.g. QDOS [wikipedia.org], Altair BASIC interpreter [wikipedia.org]).
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @10:58AM (#18458723)
    Business is an academic field.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rantingkitten ( 938138 ) <kitten@mirr[ ]hades.org ['ors' in gap]> on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:10AM (#18458903) Homepage
    That employers require a degree of people is not evidence that a degree is useful. HR departments are especially notorious for wanting to see degrees for jobs that don't require them, and in any case, the fact that "a degree" is often all that's needed is good evidence that it's useless. "You have a four year degree? Great, welcome aboard!" Of course, it's a degree in, like, anthropology or something, and you're trying to get jobs in the IT sector, but nobody cares, as long as you have a piece of paper proving you sat around for four years learning just enough to pass some tests and then forget it forever. And do I really need to get into the "business" degrees that are so shit-hot right now, where you take four years to learn corporate crap that would take you six months to absorb by experience in an actual job? Yes, you get a lot out of the "life experience" of college, but you also get a lot out of kicking around on your own for a few years and seeing what the real world is like. A formalized education is a tool, and not one that everyone needs -- I'd go so far as to say it's one that most people don't need. We have a completely artificial expectation set by employers who are aware that it's an employer's market and they can get as choosy as they want.
  • Re:Rich man's GED (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Friday March 23, 2007 @11:17AM (#18459025) Homepage Journal
    The college experience can be invaluable for discovering yourself and finding out how you want to live the rest of your life.

    I don't see how that relates to the degree.

    I went to college (well, I went to a university). I went for 2 semesters and dropped out because it felt like the same crap that I was going through in high school. The college experience, I feel, helped me out immensely with my social skills and I learned a lot of things about love, life, and technology.

    During those 2 semesters, I spent all my time learning java and playing with linux and learning about TCP/UDP networking on the dorm network as I saturated our 10mbit pipe for weeks downloading, uploading and experimenting and I got to see how the campus's network was put together when I had to have a meeting with the network admin about my rampant use of his network (so rampant, I might add, that professors and TAs couldn't log into their grading system).

    And although I wasn't paying for college after that, I lived just off campus and continued going to classes with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th year comp-sci friends so I could help them with their assignments and learn more for myself.

    Now, about a degree being worthless, it's not. It's your foot in the door at many companies, however, just because you have that piece of paper doesn't prove that you can do the work that's expected of you or that you actually know what you're talking about. I know people who majored in comp-sci and graduated with their bachelors and still have no clue how to code. They have a basic understanding of the difference between TCP and UDP but have absolutely no clue what they're used for or how their used.

    At the same time, me, and several other people I know who didn't go to college, and one guy who is a high school dropout, know more than most people with their degree. I've got a friend who just got his CCNA and is working as an assistant network admin at my old university and he only just graduated high school last year.

    Now, I'm not saying that no one needs college. College isn't for everybody, and it can be helpful as a guide; you learn about a lot of things, they have a structured learning schedule for learning about the network OSI model and sorting techniques, etc, but just going doesn't magically make you better than someone who didn't go.

    When you can show what you've done, what you can do, and what you're capable of picking up, a college degree is just a piece of paper. Actions speak louder than paper.

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