The magazine for Western Washington University

Lifetime Achievement Award 2013

David W. Cole, retired Microsoft executive

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David Cole, Lifetime Achievement Award recipient | Photo by Mark Malijan (

David Cole (’84, Applied Mathematics; ’86, M.S., Mathematics) spent just one weekend relaxing after graduating from Western before diving headfirst into a career at Microsoft.

He wasted no time making things happen as a pivotal member, and eventual leader, of the company’s monumental growth over two decades – to include the development of Windows, Internet Explorer and As one of the first 1,000 employees, Cole found himself changing hats as quickly as technology changed, going from technical developer to sales and marketing to vice president.

During the same time in the 1990s, he served on Western’s Board of Trustees for three years. His fond memories of Western include the beautiful campus and opportunity to get an excellent technology-based education. His one regret: not having an opportunity to take more business classes.

But the one thing he felt was lacking is now the focus of his philanthropy at Western – education in entrepreneurship. Cole says he is devoted to creating experiences for Western students that help them learn what it takes to launch a business, make connections within the industry and have the best chance of success. Most recently, he funded a faculty position: the David Cole Professor of Entrepreneurship for the College of Business and Economics. He also funded the David Cole Endowment Scholarship of $3,000, awarded annually to a computer science student.

David’s fast success has enabled him to enjoy an early retirement. He lives on his horse farm with his wife, Denise, and enjoys being available to spend time with his three adult children. He also spends much of his time fly fishing and attending equestrian competitions.