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Mark Zuckerberg Named 2017 Commencement Speaker

Facebook founder and Harvard dropout Mark E. Zuckerberg visits campus in 2011.
Facebook founder and Harvard dropout Mark E. Zuckerberg visits campus in 2011. By Keren E. Rohe
By Leah S. Yared, Crimson Staff Writer

Facebook founder and Harvard dropout Mark E. Zuckerberg will return to campus to speak at the University’s 366th commencement ceremony, the University announced Tuesday.

Zuckerberg will address graduates during the Afternoon Exercises of Commencement, which will take place in Tercentenary Theatre on May 25.

He founded Facebook while a sophomore in Kirkland House in 2004 before dropping out to focus full-time on the social media company, which is now worth more than $300 billion. Widely considered one of the wealthiest and most powerful people alive, Zuckerberg has pledged to donate many of his earnings to humanitarian causes.

“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,” University President Drew G. Faust told the Harvard Gazette.

As an undergraduate, though, Zuckerberg did not curry the same favor among administrators. Prior to creating Facebook, Zuckerberg faced the College’s Administrative Board for creating, a website allowing Harvard students to rate their peers by “hotness” using ID photos taken from College student directories.

After surviving the Ad Board, Zuckerberg launched, a website meant to replace what were then House-specific directories.

Over a decade later and at the head of one of the largest technology companies in the world, Zuckerberg has pledged tens of billions of dollars to a range of charities and causes. With his wife Priscilla Chan ’07, Zuckerberg has committed to donating 99 percent of his Facebook shares, including more than $3 billion over the next decade to prevent and cure diseases.

“The Social Network,” a 2010 film in which Jesse Eisenberg plays Zuckerberg, immortalized Zuckerberg’s rise to fame.

Zuckerberg, who is 32, is the youngest Commencement speaker selected in recent history. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg implored graduates to follow their “intuition” at last year’s ceremony, while former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 spoke during the Afternoon exercises in 2015.

But Zuckerberg is neither the first Harvard dropout nor first tech billionaire to speak at Harvard’s graduation exercises: Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft, spoke at Commencement in 2007.

—Staff writer Leah S. Yared can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Leah_Yared.

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