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Bill Gates’s First Best Friend Died Mountain Climbing at 17

Kent Evans was best friends with the co-founders of Microsoft when he died at 17 on Mount Shuksan in Washington

Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest and most famous philanthropists alive today. Few people know that one of his first best friends, Kent Evans, was killed at 17 while climbing Mount Shuksan as part of a University of Washington class. He died on May 28, 1972.

Evans was one of four high school students at Lakewood School who was working on computer projects. The other three were Gates, Paul Allen and Ric Weiland, who all became billionaires as co-founders of Microsoft.

Netflix’s Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates is a three-part documentary that presents a portrait of Gates, a celebrated tech visionary, business leader, and philanthropist. And one of his first collaborations ever took place when he was a middle schooler in the computer lab, with the late Evans.

Gates and Evans were the top students in their school and best friends. They worked in the lab during the day and then “talked on the phone all the time,” after school. In the documentary, Gates describes his childhood best friend as a clever student who carried a briefcase with gadgets and magazines everywhere he went. The two often talked about what they would do in the future. They read Fortune Magazine and imagined, “If you went into the civil service, what did you make? Should we go to be CEOs? What kind of impact could you have? Should we go to be generals? Should we go be ambassadors?”

Evans was even less oriented toward sports than Gates, and “more geeky,” as Gates recalled. “And then he took a mountain climbing course. It was kind of this classic Kent thing where he broadened his world view, and he decided that being a little physical was something that, you know, was valuable. So he goes and signs up for a mountain climbing course. And as part of that, when they were practising, he fell and was killed.”

Gates, who since 1987 has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people, said, “It was so unexpected, so unusual. People didn’t know what to say to me or to his parents. I sorta thought, hey O.K., now I’m going to do these things that we talked about, but I’ll do it without Evans.” Gates made headlines this week for announcing on Twitter that his marriage of 27 years to Melinda Gates was over. They’re worth 130 billion dollars.

Kent Evans / Netflix