Established in 2004 with a gift of $1,000,000 from the Wissner-Slivka Foundation, complemented by $500,000 in matching funds
The Wissner-Slivka Foundation was established by Lisa Wissner-Slivka and Benjamin W. Slivka in 1997 as a 501c3 private foundation. The bulk of its grants have been in support of education.
Lisa Wissner-Slivka earned a B.A. in Computer Studies from Northwestern University in 1985 and an M.B.A. from the University of Washington in 1988. She worked at Microsoft as a program manager and product manager on programming language tools and electronic mail applications for six years. At the time of the gift, she serves on the boards of the Seattle Children's Theater and the Bellevue Schools Foundation, and is chair of the Policy and Advocacy Committee for Social Venture Partners (SVP) and the SVP Lead Partner for the Kindering Center. Her past board service includes the Bush School and the Overlake Hospital Foundation, and she was co-chair of the Kindering Center capital campaign that was completed successfully in 2001. She ran her fourth marathon in New York City in November 2004.
Benjamin W. Slivka grew up in the Mount Baker neighborhood of Seattle and graduated from Garfield High School. He met Lisa at Northwestern University, where he earned B.S. degrees in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics in 1982 and an M.S. degree in Computer Science in 1985. He spent 14 years at Microsoft working on OS/2, MS-DOS, Windows, Java, and MSN. Perhaps his most visible project at Microsoft was starting the Internet Explorer team and leading it through the release of IE 3.0. After a brief stint at Amazon.com, he retired in 2000 to focus on his family and philanthropy. He is a Trustee of Northwestern University, a director of TeachFirst.com and the Garfield High School Foundation, and the SVP Lead Partner for Seattle MESA. He dabbles in digital photography and maintains a handful of web sites.
Holders of the Wissner-Slivka Chair
- Yejin Choi, 2023-present
- Hank Levy, 2004-2023