An Inspiring, Enduring Legacy

Ric Weiland

When Ric Weiland retired from a pioneering career in computing in 1988 to devote his life to philanthropy, he quietly devised a strategy for investing tens of millions of dollars in charitable causes close to his heart. A childhood friend of Bill Gates and Paul Allen—and employee No. 2 at Microsoft—Weiland had found his new purpose in giving back to his community.

During his lifetime, Weiland donated over $20 million to charities and was central in getting General Electric to include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. Many other companies followed their lead.

And in 2006, when he tragically lost a long battle with depression, gay rights and AIDS organizations shared $65 million from his estate. The over $9 million bequest that amfAR received helped the foundation weather the 2008 recession and establish itself as a leader in the search for a cure for HIV.

“Ric was intensely interested in our research program and took great care to understand, and sometimes to question, what we were doing and why,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “It’s not hyperbole to say that Ric’s generosity during his lifetime and through his extraordinary bequest was transformational.”

Those closest to Weiland express a common concern: that people will remember him only as a wealthy guy who gave away his money. “The most important thing to Ric would be that people remembered him as being thoughtful,” said Mike Schaefer, Weiland’s partner. “He really had to sit himself down and think through the framework so he could justify taking that much risk. He did it in his journals. He would write out 20 pages on his investment strategy and his philanthropy strategy and he’d stick to that plan and update it regularly.”

Ric Weiland with Bill Gates
Ric Weiland with Bill Gates

In addition, “Ric wanted to be remembered as a gay guy who had fun. He wanted to relate to the gay community,” said Schaefer. “He knew that if he led with his wealth he would not be part of the community. And being connected, being an out gay guy, I think that brought him a lot of joy.”

For Aaron Bear, director of Yes I Am, a new award-winning documentary on Weiland’s remarkable life and legacy, awareness is vital. “I think that’s what the film is doing is creating awareness about the history of HIV and how Ric affected that. I meet kids in their twenties and they don’t know,” said Bear. “And I think amfAR continuing to raise awareness is extremely important.”

Weiland once wrote in his personal journal, “I hope my legacy is one that is everlasting where I am not the hero, one that continues to grow and grow, for lifetimes to come.”

“While his time was shorter,” Schaefer says in Yes I Am, “His impact lives on and on and on.”

Weiland with Paul Allen and Bill Gates
Weiland with Paul Allen and Bill Gates