With gift, WWU plans to hire professor of entrepreneurship

Western Washington University plans to hire its first professor of entrepreneurship, after receiving a $500,000 gift from alumnus and retired Microsoft vice president David W. Cole, along with his wife, Denise, who also attended WWU.

The new position, which will be called the David Cole Professor of Entrepreneurship and be will housed within WWU’s College of Business and Economics, will provide leadership and teach courses in a new entrepreneurship minor.

The goal of the new program is to increase the number of graduates, regardless of major, who will launch and run their own successful organizations, create jobs and increase the overall economic vitality of Washington state, according to WWU.

“The vision here is to provide entrepreneurial students with some of the knowledge, tools and connections needed to turn their ideas into a business, creating jobs and corresponding social and economic benefit,” said David Cole, in a news release from the university.

Brian Burton, the business college’s dean, said the gift will help form a baseline set of courses in entrepreneurship along with courses that help people whose interests are more specialized in areas such as social entrepreneurship, technology and “lean” start-ups, as well as other areas of possible interest.

“The nature of this program will reflect Western. We are entrepreneurial in many ways, and our interests span traditional entrepreneurship, technology, social innovation, environmental and energy aspects, and more,” Burton said. “We are hoping for and expecting students from throughout the University to be attracted to the program and benefit from it. We will add the understanding of start-ups to Western students’ passion and strong liberal arts base to help educate entrepreneurs who will change society in many ways.”

Burton said that because entrepreneurs in every area contribute greatly to the state’s economic health, their development is of huge importance to Washington and the region.

“We appreciate that the Coles’ vision is so similar to our own; this will help us contribute to the state’s economic well-being through our education of some of the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders,” he said.

Cole graduated cum laude from WWU in 1984, with a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. He earned a master’s degree in mathematics (also cum laude) in 1986.

Cole worked with Microsoft for more than 20 years, and played key roles in the development of Windows, Internet Explorer and MSN.com while at the software company.

He has also served as a trustee at WWU.

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