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Paul Allen’s quiet gifts, legacy lives on at Seattle’s Lakeside School

Paul Allen quietly donated more than $20 million to Seattle's Lakeside School throughout the years. It's where Allen met his Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Amidst the fall colors shadowing the Lakeside School campus, one sign stood out: "Thank You Paul.”

It was the single, solitary reminder on the campus of what transpired in the past 24 hours. It was also perhaps a fitting tribute to Paul Allen, a man who gave the school so much while asking for very little in return.

"The most important part of Paul is that he did what he did for the right reasons, utterly without fanfare," said Lakeside's Head of School Bernie Noe, while sitting on a bench outside the main office Tuesday.

Noe counts Paul Allen among the "two or three" people who have left the biggest legacy at the school. Allen, along with Bill Gates, spent countless hours in the North Seattle computer lab back in the late 60s and early 70s.

"Paul said they in effect started Microsoft here,” said Noe.

Also see | How Paul Allen changed the landscape of Seattle

There is a small exhibit on the lower level of a nondescript building, again, fitting for a man who avoided the spotlight.

"You knew something was going to happen," said Fred Wright, who taught at Lakeside for 39 years.

Wright said Allen and Gates came up with computer code, later called BASIC, while still at the school. Wright heard faculty complain about how wild the boys were in the lab, but felt it allowed the tandem to grow and evolve.

The duo came back roughly 15 years, and more than $1 million later, to help build a new science lab on the campus. They flipped a coin for naming rights, and the Allen Gates Hall was born.

Noe says Allen quietly spent millions more on upkeep and infrastructure on the building, then helped finance a new athletic center which bears his name. All told, Noe says Allen donated more than $20 million to Lakeside.

Also see | How Paul Allen, Bill Gates brought a computer into every home

For a man who famously dropped out of Washington State University, education funding was a passion project. Allen donated more to the University of Washington, WSU, and started institutes for brain science and artificial intelligence.

"Paul wanted to see every student to have that chance," said Noe. "He did things for the right reasons. He was a genuinely humble man."

“The legacy is just beginning. Students will be using (the science building), the athletic center, and benefitting from the technology at the school, for the next 100 years," Noe added.

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