Charles and Lisa Simonyi

NET WORTH: $2.5 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Arts & Culture, Education, Space Exploration, Seattle Community

OVERVIEW: Charles Simonyi and his wife Lisa have made around $100 million in total grants, much of it through the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences, which was created in 2004. In the Seattle area, Simonyi’s grantmaking runs the gamut, but on a national scale, he mostly prioritizes arts and culture, and the occasional educational organization.

BACKGROUND: Charles Simonyi grew up in Budapest, Hungary. His father was a professor of electrical engineering, giving Charles an early interest in computers. He attended UC Berkeley, obtaining a master’s, and went to Stanford for his Ph.D. During his time at Stanford he was hired by Xerox, where he worked on one of the first personal computers. In 1981, he went to work for Microsoft, overseeing the creation of the Microsoft Office applications. He spent nearly 20 years at the company before leaving in 2002 to co-found Intentional Software.


EDUCATION: Simonyi has been responsible for the funding several professorships over the years. In 1995, he established the Simonyi Professorship of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, a position first held by Richard Dawkins. Two years later he endowed a chair at Stanford—the Simonyi Professorship for Innovation in Teaching. In 2005, he made a $25 million donation to the Institute for Advanced Study, which was used in part to fund the Simonyi Professorship of Mathematical Physics. The family has continued to strongly support the institution. Other past grantees include Cambridge in America, Alliance for Education, Seattle University, and University of Washington Foundation.

ARTS & CULTURE: The couple's giving in arts and culture prioritizes Seattle area, with their largest grants going to the Seattle Symphony (Lisa has served on the board), Seattle Public Library, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Flight, and Seattle Opera. The family has also supported places like Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Simonyi's one-time home of Denmark, Museum of Computer History in California, Hungarian-American Coalition, Metropolitan Opera, All Star Orchestra Summit, and Museum of Flight.

SEATTLE AREA: Though their largest grantmaking is in arts and culture, the family supports a range of other organizations in their community. Some examples include the Boys & Girls Club, Washington Policy Center, Stronger Families, Seattle Chinese Gardens Society, National Bureau of Asian Research, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, the United Service Organization of Puget Sound, and Seniors Making Art. 

SPACE EXPLORATION: Simonyi has been a major supporter of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Arizona, giving $20 million to the project, which images remote galaxies to help uncover the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and can also be used to chart hazardous near-earth objects. The family has also given to National Space Society, and Pima Air & Space Museum.

LOOKING FORWARD: Outside of Seattle, Simonyi tends to seek organizations that support his other interests, such as space and flight and modern art. 


Susan Hutchison, Exec. Dir.

Simonyi Fund

P.O. Box 85900
Seattle, WA 98145-1900
Telephone: (206) 522-7000