Richard Weiland, low-key champion of causes
Seattle Times staff reporter
Richard W. Weiland, one of Microsoft's earliest employees and an unassuming philanthropist focused on an array of causes, died Saturday, June 24, at his home. He was 53.
Mr. Weiland was a classmate of Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen at Lakeside School in Seattle and later joined them at the company during its earliest days in Albuquerque, N.M.
Allen described Mr. Weiland as "a longtime friend" who was "very warm and thoughtful."
"Ric was certainly a key contributor to Microsoft's early success, and was a brilliant programmer," Allen said in a statement. "I have many fond memories of Ric and all the things we did together, and I will miss him."
After leaving Microsoft in 1988, Mr. Weiland gave much of his wealth and time to causes ranging from the Audubon Society and Stanford University, where he earned a degree in electrical engineering, to gay rights.
Tina Podlodowski, executive director of Seattle-based Lifelong AIDS Alliance and a former Microsoft executive, said she first crossed paths with Mr. Weiland at the company, where the community of gay and lesbian employees was small and close-knit in the 1980s. But Podlodowski, a former Seattle city councilwoman, said she came to know him better as a contributor and volunteer for her organization and political campaigns.
"He was terrifically smart, terrifically caring, but a very unassuming kind of guy," she said, adding that several organizations sought him out. "If you were smart, you didn't just want his money. What you wanted more than anything was his brain."
Mr. Weiland did not seek acclaim, friends said.
"He often specifically asked for no special attention for his giving," said Audrey Haberman, executive director of the Pride Foundation. "He, in fact, was sometimes uncomfortable with too much recognition."
Mr. Weiland spent several years on the board of the foundation, which used its ownership of stock in some public companies to advocate for change.
Haberman recalled how Mr. Weiland stepped out of his comfort zone to challenge a corporate giant.
Mr. Weiland, "who was not a big public speaker," once traveled to General Electric's corporate headquarters and addressed its then-chief executive, Jack Welch, in front of some 2,000 people gathered for a shareholders meeting, she said. He explained how adding sexual orientation to the company's anti-discrimination policy would help GE retain employees and be a corporate leader.
She said Mr. Weiland told the GE meeting that at Microsoft, "he could be his whole self in his work and what a profound experience that was for him."
The foundation, in collaboration with a New York group, sponsored a shareholder resolution that prompted GE to change its policies in 2000.
Mr. Weiland is survived by his partner, Mike Schaefer; nieces Emily Smelser and Heidi Kupitz; nephews Fred Smelser and Henry Smelser; and grand-nephew Josiah Kupitz.
A private gathering of family and close friends is being held today, and a community memorial service is being planned for later this summer.
Benjamin J. Romano: 206-464-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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