The world's richest man yesterday thanked the Lakeside School in North Seattle by bestowing $40 million on his alma mater. Bill Gates, who graduated...

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The world’s richest man yesterday thanked the Lakeside School in North Seattle by bestowing $40 million on his alma mater.

Bill Gates, who graduated from the school in 1973, rattled off stories about his days as a student and professed gratitude toward teachers as nearly 3,000 parents, students, faculty and alumni, seated under a tent set up on a soccer field, listened. The donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest the private school has ever received.

The money is part of a campaign to raise $105 million so that greater financial aid can be available to students who can’t afford tuition at the school for grades 5 through 12. Funds raised by the “Living our Mission” campaign also will give teachers and staff salary raises.

The money also will be used to bolster the school’s Global Service Learning program — students spending at least a month in developing countries to help refugees, improve environmental sustainability and help in other ways.

With Gates’ contribution, the school has raised $70 million toward its goal, said Head of School Bernie Noe.

When he took the podium, Gates thanked his parents for making him attend the school. He reminisced about the days he and classmate Paul Allen, a fellow Microsoft co-founder, spent working on the school’s single computer terminal in the 1960s.

“I can say without Lakeside there would be no Microsoft, and I’m here to say thank you,” Gates said.

Gates, whose foundation gives money to schools across the country, said he believes in three “R’s” when it comes to education: rigor in the academic challenges for students; relevance in the lessons they learn; and relationships, in the form of meaningful mentorships between students and teachers and other adults.

“I want as many students from as many backgrounds as possible to enjoy a Lakeside education,” Gates said.

T.J. Vassar, a faculty member and 1968 grad, said about 23 percent of all students receive financial aid. He said the money raised by the campaign will increase financial-aid funds by one-third.

“Money won’t be a barrier,” Vassar said. “If somebody wants to come to Lakeside they can.”

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com