University of St. Thomas students experienced a once-in-a-lifetime treat when Microsoft head and cofounder Bill Gates spoke at the opening ceremony and building dedication of the new Schulze School of Entrepreneurship on the university’s Minneapolis campus Oct. 20, 2005.

Gates, a Harvard dropout and arguably the most prolific entrepreneur the world has known, shared the stage with Best Buy Co. Inc. founder Richard Schulze to speak on a range of topics including the importance of failure in creating successful entrepreneurs, his hiring practices, work-life balance and how his teenage “software hobby” eventually morphed into multibillion-dollar, multinational corporation.

He offered this pearl of wisdom to Tommies dreaming of launching their own businesses:

“I don’t know why it is that many people who have the talent to do that, don’t take the risk. Is it that they’re worried they’ll be shut down? And I think at some point in your life if you stop thinking that way, you never get it back. Almost everybody has it when they’re young. There’s something that pushes it out. Having the confidence, the optimism, that’s part of it. Not letting setbacks shut off those creative juices. And not thinking that people like us are somehow magical.”

Some might have called his (and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s) vision of putting microcomputers – small, personal-sized computers – on every desktop in every home magical thinking when he dreamed up the idea in the 1970s.

Gates, then 49, was (and remains) America’s richest man, worth an estimated $46.5 billion in 2005. In the ten year’s since he visited St. Thomas, he has grown his wealth to $80 billion, according to Forbes magazine, and continues to co-run the charitable Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has given away $30 billion since it began in 2000.

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