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Name and title: Connie R. Collingsworth, general counsel Age: 47 Company profile: Established by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and his wife, the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says it operates on the “belief that every life has equal value.” Its declared mission is to reduce inequities and improve lives in the United States and around the world. In developing countries, the foundation says it works to improve health, reduce extreme poverty and increase access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation works to increase access to education and technology in public libraries as well as to help low-income families in the Seattle area. The foundation is the nation’s largest, with a $33 billion endowment. It has given away more than $13 billion since its inception in 2000, when Bill Gates merged his two existing foundations. One was the William H. Gates Foundation, which Bill Gates formed in 1994 and to which he appointed his father, retired attorney William H. Gates Sr., as chairman; the other was the Gates Learning Foundation, which was established in 1997. The combined organization employs about 350 people. Last year, investor Warren Buffett announced plans to give the foundation $30 billion in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. stock, making a down payment on that pledge of $1.6 billion. Foundation initiatives have ranged from Avahan, an HIV-prevention program in India, to the D.C. Achievers Scholarship, which will provide college scholarships to 2,250 low-income students from the nation’s capital. This year, the foundation announced a $1.75 million grant to support the American Bar Association’s World Justice Project, which aims to strengthen the rule of law in the United States and abroad through a number of programs, including conferences, a public education campaign and a worldwide forum. Collingsworth considers her position a “dream job.” “It’s really an honor because of the exciting things we’re trying to achieve,” she said. “I think anybody would be proud of what we’re out here trying to tackle. And with our focus and expertise we’ll end up finding solutions to some of these things. It’s really exciting to be able to say I was on the team that helped work on these things.” Legal team: The Gates Foundation’s in-house legal team consists of eight lawyers, including Collingsworth, but with the foundation’s growth she plans to hire five more. “We have a mantra for our legal team � guidance, solutions and integrity,” Collingsworth said. In reviewing the foundation’s operations and initiatives, “we’re here not to say no, but to guide people through the rules, to make sure we are proactive in coming up with creative solutions so we can accomplish the objectives. And I think it’s really important to uphold the integrity of the organization.” The foundation uses as many as 10 outside law firms, but relies on Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis for primary counsel. Bill Gates’ father was a founder of Seattle-based Preston Gates & Ellis, one of K&L Gates’ precursor firms. The foundation also uses Caplin & Drysdale of Washington and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius for tax work. Daily duties: Collingsworth has dedicated much time to building her legal team and the systems it needs to work effectively, such as a database that tracks lawyers’ potential conflicts. She oversees various legal functions. “It covers quite a range, from making sure we’re in good shape with respect to our governance to helping with development of new protocols and policies so we can be a more effective grant maker,” she said. Collingsworth has spearheaded partnerships, including last year’s $150 million alliance with the Rockefeller Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. The program works on developing seeds to boost crop yields in Africa and ensure that they are delivered to the neediest farmers. Another initiative, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, focuses on mineral deficiencies � helping to build a manufacturing plant in China, for example, to fortify soy sauce to alleviate iron deficiency. Collingsworth oversaw much of the corporate work for the entity, including drafting contracts and selection of an executive director. Another major project was related to Buffett’s gift. Collingsworth’s team restructured the foundation into two trusts; Buffett joined the Gateses as trustees of the overall foundation, but not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which will administer the stock. The arrangement puts the stock gift beyond Buffett’s control. Route to present position: Collingsworth received her bachelor’s degree from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich., in 1979; her juris doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 1982; and a master of laws degree in international business legal studies from the University of Exeter in England. She worked as a corporate lawyer for about 3 1/2 years with Houston’s Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin, and for 1 1/2 years at Hall Estill in Tulsa, Okla., before joining Preston Gates & Ellis. She stayed there for 15 years, leaving in 2002 to join the Gates Foundation. “It’s been beneficial to have a business perspective,” Collingsworth said of her background. “I do a lot of things I find I’ve had previous experience with. As the general lawyer, I’m doing things with respect to [human resources] issues; we’re building a new campus and the foreign offices. But most importantly, I’m doing the work with all of the strategic partnerships and the joint ventures.” She referred to new facilities in Seattle and offices in Washington and Delhi, India. The foundation is working on opening an office in China. Personal: Collingsworth was born in Lincoln, Neb. She lives on Mercer Island, Wash., with her husband, Allen, and daughters Alexa, 16, and Elise, 13. Her job takes her to places like China, India, Thailand and Switzerland, but she tries to spend as much time as she can with her children. “I really try to devote a lot of time to them in this stage of their lives,” she said. She serves on the board of the Attenex Corp., a business-to-business software company, and is co-chairwoman of Social Ventures Partners, which promotes philanthropy among high school students. Collingsworth is one of the founders of the French American School of Puget Sound, a nonprofit immersion French school on Mercer Island. Last book and movie: The Tenth Circle, by Jodi Picoult, and Amazing Grace.

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