John W. Thompson, of Riviera Beach and a 1971 graduate of Florida A&M University, has been named chairman of the board of Microsoft Corp., succeeding company founder Bill Gates.

Thompson’s appointment announced this week makes him one of two minorities at the top level of the software giant. Satya Nadella, a native of India, is the new chief executive officer, taking over from Steve Ballmer, who recently announced his resignation from the company.

The Associated Press reported that Thompson, a Microsoft board member since February 2012, headed the search for the new CEO. In a blog post late last year, Thompson said the board whittled down a list of more than 100 prospects to about 20.
A FAMU statement said Thompson graduated from the School of Business and Industry. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2011.

“This is an excellent example of how the education our students receive at FAMU will propel them from the classroom to the boardroom and beyond,” Interim President Larry Robinson said in the statement.

Shawnta Friday-Stroud, dean of the School of Business and Industry, agreed, saying the appointment “is a testament to the preparation that students receive at FAMU.”  Thompson is also chief executive officer of Virtual Instruments, is a former chairman and CEO of Symantec and has worked at IBM. He attended John F. Kennedy High School in Riviera Beach; received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from FAMU; and a master’s degree in management from the Sloan Fellows program of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The Microsoft announcement said Gates will take on a new role on the board as founder and technology advisor.