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The Western-Microsoft connection

Have you heard about the not-so-secret network of hundreds of Microsoft employees?

Story by Mary Gallagher

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Julie Larson-Green ('86), Brian Daugherty ('84) and Keith Boyd ('95) are among the hundreds of Western alumni making a difference at Microsoft. | Photo by Mark Malijan (
The sticker on Brian Daugherty's office window at Microsoft often catches the eye of other WWU alumni. | Photo by Mark Malijan (

Did you hear about the not-so-secret network of hundreds of Microsoft employees?

Their membership includes:

The vice president in charge of development for two generations of the Windows operating system.

A recruiter who finds people who work in supply chain management for Xbox and Kinect games.

The engineer who helps maintain the "marketplace" where people buy apps for their Windows phones.

The retired executive who helped lead Microsoft through explosive growth in the '90s.

And that's just a sampling of the hundreds of Western Washington University alumni who work at Microsoft. According to WWU records, 522 alumni work at the software giant, Include parents of current students and the total number of Vikings at Microsoft rises to more than 600,

But apart from the occasional WWU sweatshirt or license plate frame, many Western alumni probably don't know how much company they have at Microsoft.

"Western alums aren't the kind that go around and advertise where they're from They just go about their business," says David Cole ('84, Applied Mathematics; '86, M.S., Mathematics), a retired senior vice president who worked at the company for 20 years, "They are smart, received a great education from Western, and get the job done at Microsoft."

And they're not all in hiding. Brian Daugherty ('84, Business Administration/Computer Science), a senior software development engineer who has worked at Microsoft since 1995, says the WWU sticker on his window attracts the attention of a few passersby "I've had several people introduce themselves, 'Hey, I'm a Western grad, too,'" says Daugherty.

And while Western alums might be surprised to run into a fellow Viking at Microsoft, collectively they have had a tremendous impact on their alma mater, Since 1989, alumni, parents and friends working at Microsoft, coupled with corporate matching gifts, have contributed more than $11 million in cash and software to Western - that's more than any other group of employees in Western's history.

Gifts that support academic programs, scholarships and student initiatives are matched by Microsoft, allowing a donation of any size to make to a substantial impact, Donations from Microsoft employees also have transformed Western by providing the latest software in computer labs throughout the campus.

"They populated our labs for years with current software that the students would not have had otherwise," says Susan Brown, Western's software manager for Academic Technology & User Services.

Microsoft alumni also donate their time to Western on boards of directors, advisory committees and as classroom speakers. Vice President of Program Management for Windows Julie Larson-Green ('86, Business Administration), for example, sits on the Western Foundation board of directors. And Keith Boyd ('95, Political Science), a

senior content publishing manager, is president-elect of the

WWU Alumni Association. And Daugherty recently spoke in several Management Information Systems classes.

Boyd, whose department writes the program documentation for Windows 8, loves it when colleagues ask him where he went to school, particularly if they've never heard of Western.

"In an environment like Microsoft, it's pretty common to run into people who went to very prestigious colleges," Boyd says, "I feel I can compete with the best in the world, based on the skills I was given at Western."