Remembering Paul Allen
Emma Dobbs, Staff Writer
Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Monday, Oct. 15 at the age of 65. Allen had been treated for the disease earlier in 2009, but announced it had returned in early October. He is remembered and mourned by Seattle as the owner of the Seattle Seahawks, and an avid philanthropist and friend of the city.
During the ‘70s, Seattle high-schoolers and childhood friends, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, launched their first business, Traf-o-Data. This business offered a solution to better record traffic flow patterns, and ran for several years after the pair left high school, before its eventual failure. Still, the business netted around $20,000 for the pair, and gave them their first insights into entrepreneurship.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft made Allen one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. In 1980, Microsoft was asked by IBM to provide the operating systems for their new personal computer. This break pushed Microsoft to the forefront of current technology. At the time of his death, Allen placed 44th on Forbes’s list of billionaires for 2018. His net worth of $20 billion was well-spent, funding the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, which he owned, as well as several other organizations. Gates, Allen’s partner and friend, recalls Allen saying “If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it.” Allen lived this motto out through his charitable giving and community involvement.
Allen’s ownership of the Seattle Seahawks allowed the team to remain and prosper in the Pacific Northwest. Before Allen purchased the team in 1997, it was announced the Seahawks would relocate to Southern California. After voters passed an initiative allowing the construction of what is now CenturyLink Field, Allen purchased the team and kept them in Seattle. The Seahawks would go on to take twelve trips to the playoffs, and play three Super Bowls under the ownership of Allen. Representing the Seahawks organization, Head Coach Pete Carroll shared his condolences publicly on social media, stating that Allen’s “gracious leadership and tremendous inspiration will never be forgotten.”
A man of many interests, Allen’s love of sports was just as strong as his love of the arts. Thomas Mara, the executive director of Seattle radio station KEXP credits Allen’s $3.6 million donation in 2001 for helping the station become financially self-sufficient and independent. When speaking on Allen’s generosity, Mara was quoted saying “He could’ve done anything and that’s what he has chosen to do and that speaks volumes of his supports of Seattle and the Northwest music scene.”
In addition to his contributions to Seattle air waves, Allen established MOPOP, the Museum of Pop Culture with his sister Jody in 2000. The music of Jimi Hendrick’s inspired Allen to learn electric guitar, after attending Hendrick’s concert at the age of 16. Allen grew up playing violin, but pursued electric guitar into adulthood. In 2016 Allen’s band, Paul Allen and the Underthinkers, produced their first and only album, “Everywhere At Once,” with proceeds benefitting the museum. Allen’s love of rock music played into museum exhibits such as “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses, and Pearl Jam: Home and Away.” As owner of the Seattle Seahawks, Allen brought the story of the Seahawks road to their first Super Bowl win to MOPOP, merging together Allen’s passions of athletics and the arts.
Near the end of his life, Allen shared his personal collection of fine art with the public. Allen’s masterpieces toured the country through “Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection.” The tour ended at the Seattle Art Museum in May of 2017 after traveling 8,000 miles. The tour stopped in Washington D.C., Portland Oregon, New Orleans, Minneapolis and Seattle over the span of 591 days. Guests to the exhibit could see works of renowned artists such as Claude Monet and Georgia O’ Keefe. Paul Tucker, an art scholar and curator of Seeing Nature claims Allen’s private collection could be worth more than $1 billion.
Various Washington landmarks illuminated blue Saturday, Nov. 3 and Sunday, Nov. 4 in honor of Allen. Microsoft City Center, CenturyLink Field and the Museum of Pop Culture are three of the many Seattle landmarks that participated. The Los Angeles and New York City campuses of Microsoft also took part in remembering the remarkable Seattle native.