Joshua Green in The Atlantic:
Tim Gill is best known as the founder of the publishing-software giant Quark Inc., and for a long time was one of the few openly gay members of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans. He was born in 1953 to one of Colorado’s well-known Republican political families. (The town of Gill in the north-central part of the state is named after them.) After earning a degree in applied mathematics and computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Gill founded Quark in his apartment in 1981, in the manner of other self-made computer magnates like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, with a $2,000 loan from his parents.
While Gill participated in gay activism in college, his passions ran more toward differential calculus, and he didn’t feel particularly beset by his homosexuality. He had come out to his parents when he was a teenager and been accepted. It was the very ordinariness of his upper-middle-class upbringing, in fact, that made his political awakening such a shock. In 1992, a ballot initiative approved by Colorado voters altered the state constitution to prohibit laws aimed at protecting gays and lesbians (it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court). Gill noticed bumper stickers supporting the measure on the desks of some Quark employees. Not long afterward, he set up the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, through which he donates to “mainstream” charities—libraries, symphonies, vaccination clinics, even a Star Trek exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science—to spread the message that gays and lesbians care about the same things as everyone else. In 2000, he sold his interest in Quark for a reported half-billion dollars in order to focus full-time on his philanthropy.
Even as he has shied from the spotlight, Gill has become one of the most generous and widest-reaching political benefactors in the country, and emblematic of a new breed of business-minded donor that is rapidly changing American politics.