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President of the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Step Down | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Sylvia Mathews Burwell helped build a world class organization and a transformative Global Development grantmaking program

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that Sylvia Mathews Burwell will step down from her position at the foundation after a decade of service. She served as the foundation’s Chief Operating Officer from 2001 to 2006, and in her current position as founding president of the Global Development Program, from 2006.

“Sylvia’s done a great job of helping us build a world class organization and created a transformative grantmaking program that is helping millions of poor people around the world,” says Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “She put our global development work on a path to success, and we look forward to building on it.”

“While we are sorry to see her go, Bill, Jeff and I all support her need to move closer to aging parents as her young children grow and wish her the best of luck in the next phase of her career,” says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “Her dedication to the world’s most vulnerable will be her lasting legacy at the foundation.”

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Sylvia during her time as President of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” says Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and former Secretary-General of the United Nations. “Sylvia has been a crucial partner in our efforts to build AGRA.  Her strategic vision, commitment to fighting poverty, and determination to draw global attention back to agricultural development have been invaluable contributions to our mission.  We will miss her energy, dedication and warmth, and I would like to wish her all the very best for the future.” 

As COO, Burwell helped manage the growth of the foundation from its start up stage, to a major global operation.  During her tenure the foundation’s grantmaking grew during by 40 percent, to $1.5 billion per year, while staff grew by 50 percent, to 350. She also oversaw the opening of the foundation’s first office outside of Seattle, in Washington, D.C.

During her tenure as president of the Global Development Program, she designed and led the foundation’s strategies to improve the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people, and laid a foundation for long-term impact and advocacy. She built a world class team of over 150 professionals, and launched grantmaking programs in the areas of agricultural development; financial services for the poor; water, sanitation and hygiene; global libraries, and a special initiatives program that includes emergency response and urban poverty.

“Sylvia’s skills as a leader have benefited the foundation, the Global Development Program and its grantees and partners, and the millions of people who have benefited from the programs she developed and managed,” says Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Gates Foundation. “She leaves behind a strong program team, dedicated to the cause of lifting the world’s poorest out of hunger and extreme poverty.”

“For a decade it has been the highest privilege to work on some of the most challenging and important issues of our time and serve those vulnerable millions who are seeking the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life,” says Burwell. “It has been an honor to be a part of Bill and Melinda’s enormous generosity and to learn from them as well as my great colleagues at the foundation and those at our partner organizations.  I am proud of the impact we have had on some of the world’s toughest problems, and I will always treasure this experience.”

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