February 7, 2012; Source: Montreal Daily Gazette | The first family of philanthropy is without a doubt Bill and Melinda Gates, whose eponymous foundation is the world’s largest and, perhaps along with the Ford Foundation, the world’s most influential. Or maybe a better adjective is ubiquitous, but it seems to us that the Gates Foundation is present on a wide variety of issues. Take a look at just a sampling of the press coverage from the first week or so of February in which the Gates Foundation was actively engaged, if not leading the charge:

Memphis Commercial Appeal (2/7/12): A critical issue in the proposed merger of Memphis City Schools (MCS) with Shelby County Schools is whether the Gates-supplied funding MCS has been using for some years on issues such as teacher evaluation and compensation in Memphis can be expanded to cover the additional schools from Shelby.

AllAfrica (2/7/12):  A Gates-funded study found worldwide deaths from malaria to be 1.2 million in 2010, twice as high as previous estimates

Slate (2/8/12):  The Gates Foundation is funding research to create a mobile device for detecting diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis

Geekosystem (2/8/12):  The Gates Foundation is funding Ecobot III, a robot powered by human feces (making it the world’s first functioning Poop Robot).

International Business Times (2/7/12):  Gates has funded a possible HIV vaccine that would work like vaccines for polio, hepatitis A, and other diseases.

The Root (2/8/12):  President Obama announced the creation of a $22 million fund, capitalized in part by the Gates Foundation, to train 100,000 new math and science teachers.

Everett Daily Herald (2/7/12):  Religious groups serving the homeless in the Puget Sound area will be eligible for $10,000 grants from the Gates Foundation at the Faith and Family Homelessness Project of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry.

Saginaw News (2/2/12):  Rotary International announced that it met a $200 million fundraising challenge from the Gates Foundation to leverage an additional $405 million from the foundation to fight polio.

Al Jazeera (2/8/12):  The Gates Foundation is providing significant support to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, based on Bill Gates’ notion that building the productivity of small farms will be the new green revolution.

It may be a bit much to call Bill Gates “the people’s billionaire,” as journalist Mary Riddell did in the Montreal Gazette. The Gates Foundation has no shortage of critics ready to identify the foundation’s shortcomings. But the foundation’s size and generosity give the world’s second richest man an outsized eleemosynary influence here in the U.S. and overseas. —Rick Cohen