Neukom Institute History

Dartmouth has been an early and enduring world leader in the scientific fields of computation. As early as the 1940s, Dartmouth faculty and students conceived and shaped the way computer hardware and software was designed, and pioneered the broad uses of computation across the arts and sciences.

The field of Artificial Intelligence, still thriving today, was created by Dartmouth mathematician John McCarthy, at a national conference held at Dartmouth in 1956. John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz invented the seminal computer language BASIC, as well as the first (and eventually the largest) time-sharing system, all at Dartmouth in the 1960s. One of the earliest fully wired campus network systems was installed here in the 1970s and 80s, and then, one of the earliest completely wireless campus networks in the 2000s.

Dartmouth now stands on the threshold of a new era of computation, enabling interdisciplinary research that is transforming the arts and sciences, and launching wholly new fields of inquiry that only a few years ago were barely contemplated.

Increasingly, the study of any topic involves computation. The digital arts depend on the understanding and use of computational methods. Economics employs advanced simulations to analyze moment-by-moment trends and changes in markets. Biologists depend crucially on complex computational analyses—not just computers—in their reconstruction of how genetic systems operate, how brain circuits process sensory inputs, how proteins fold, how chemical reactions cascade through an organism.

William H. Neukom

William H. Neukom, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1964, became a partner in Bill Gates' father's Seattle law firm in 1979, and was asked to represent the then 12-person company, Microsoft, that had just moved to Washington state.

After six years as outside counsel, Mr. Neukom joined Microsoft in 1985, and went on to build one of the most respected corporate law departments in the country, from an initial staff of five to more than 600 attorneys and support personnel. Eventually, he became the executive vice president of law and corporate affairs at Microsoft, and spent a total of 24 years at Microsoft, 17 of them as Microsoft's general counsel and chief legal officer, managing the companies legal, governmental affairs and philanthropic activities. He rejoined Preston Gates & Ellis as a partner in 2002; the firm recently merged to create Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis LLP.

He was a Dartmouth Trustee from 1996 to 2007, and chair of the Board of Trustees from 2004-2007, at which time he pledged the initial gift to create the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth. The commitment, made in honor of his family, is the largest gift in Dartmouth’s history for an academic program. Part of Neukom’s gift is a challenge to other supporters of the college to raise additional endowment funds that will ultimately provide the funding needed to launch a full range of Institute activities. Mr. Neukom was elected President of the American Bar Association from 2007-2008, during which he initiated the World Justice Project.

Mr. Neukom says "I learned how to try to think critically and write clearly while at Dartmouth, thanks to attentive faculty and bright classmates, and I fell in love with its 'sense of place' in that welcoming and beautiful part of upper New England." Three of Neukom's children have attended Dartmouth.

Reflecting on his philanthropy, Neukom adds, "The college provided me a priceless liberal arts education, and as I continued to learn about the remarkable academic experience it provides for its diverse student body and faculty, I wanted to do something significant for Dartmouth. Investing some Microsoft equity in computational science seemed natural and appropriate."