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Bill and Melinda Gates to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Bill Gates, Melinda GatesBill Gates, Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates.Photograph by Seth Wenig — AP

Philanthropic pioneers Bill and Melinda Gates will be among the recipients of President Barack Obama’s final presidential medal of freedom to be presented November 22 at the White House.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which manages an endowment fund worth nearly $40 billion, has invested $36 billion to date in projects to fight malaria and tuberculosis and other global health and education initiatives. Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft (MSFT) in 1982 and has pledged to donate most of his fortune to charity. Billionaire Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett also contributes to the foundation.

The honorees were announced Wednesday in a White House statement.

Other tech luminaries on the list include Richard Garwin, a physicist who helped design the first hydrogen bomb. Garwin also headed up Applied Research at the IBM (IBM)Thomas J. Watson Research Center and is an IBM Fellow emeritus. He won the National Medal of Science in 2002.

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Mathematician Margaret Hamilton, who lead the development of on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo space effort, will also be honored.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the pioneering software programmer, will be honored posthumously. Hopper wrote the first software compiler and contributed much to the creation of the COBOL programming language, which helped drive the computer age.

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Other honorees include basketball great and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Native American activist Eloise Cobell; entertainers Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, and Diana Ross; Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, NBA great Michael Jordan; sports broadcaster Vin Scully; attorney Newt Minnow; artist Maya Lin; and architect Frank Gehry.