Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, one of Harvard University’s most famous dropouts, will return to his one-time alma mater this summer to deliver the commencement address at the convocation ceremony.
Zuckerberg, 32 will be the featured speaker at Harvard’s 366th Commencement on May 25, the University announced yesterday. This is an honour that brings distinguished political leaders, business chiefs and artists to address graduating students.
A young Zuckerberg, now among the world’s most powerful and influential billionaires, had founded Facebook in 2004 in his Harvard dormitory and had then dropped out of the prestigious institution to focus full-time on building the social media company, which transformed the way people interacted with each other.
Harvard President Drew Faust lauded the former student’s leadership and his company’s impact on how nearly 1.9 billion people interact, saying she looks forward to welcoming Zuckerberg back to the varsity on Commencement day.
“Mark Zuckerberg’s leadership has profoundly altered the nature of social engagement worldwide. Few inventions in modern times can rival Facebook in its far-reaching impact on how people around the globe interact with one another,” Faust said. She added that few individuals can rival Zuckerberg in his drive to change the world through the innovative use of technology, as well as his commitment to advance science, enhance education, and expand opportunity through the pursuit of philanthropy.
Zuckerberg is not the first Harvard dropout to give the commencement address at his former university. Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft and is a Harvard dropout, spoke at the university’s Commencement in 2007. Born in White Plains, New York in 1984, Zuckerberg was already writing software in middle school, including a program called “ZuckNet” which he created for his father’s dental practice.
As a teenager, he built a platform called Synapse Media Player that used machine learning to analyze a user’s listening preferences. The program was recognised by PC Magazine and earned him job offers from Microsoft and AOL. Zuckerberg enrolled in Harvard College in 2002 as a member of the Class of 2006. While he was a second-year student, he and a group of friends created a platform called thefacebook.com, initially designed as a social networking website for Harvard students.
The website quickly gained unprecedented popularity and drew the attention of investors. Zuckerberg dropped out of college and moved to California to rebrand the company as a global service.
He and his wife Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician and 2007 Harvard College graduate, have pledged to donate 99 per cent of their Facebook shares over their lifetimes through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which is committed to advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity.