Mark Zuckerberg: The most important thing I built at Harvard

Ask Mark Zuckerberg about the accomplishment he’s most proud of from his days at Harvard University, and the answer may surprise you. It certainly isn’t inventing Facemash, the website that eventually became Facebook (FB).

“Priscilla is the most important person in my life, and the most important thing I built in my time here,” Zuckerberg said of his wife during a commencement speech at Harvard on Thursday.

The 33-year-old Facebook chief executive spent a significant chunk of his time during the speech reflecting on how he met Chan, a pediatrician he eventually married in 2012.

“Priscilla was at a party, and I used the romantic line, ‘I’m getting kicked out in 3 days, so we need to go out quickly,” he said with a grin.

Mark Zuckerberg at the Harvard graduation. Associated Press

Chan appears to have had a significant, lasting impression on Zuckerberg, who encouraged him to teach after-school classes to middle school students studying entrepreneurship at a Boys & Girls Club at the Menlo Park, Calif. several years ago.

“They taught me what it was like growing up and feeling targeted for your race and what it’s like having a family member in prison,” recalled Zuckerberg, who taught the students product development and marketing. “I shared stories of my time in school, and they shared their hope that one day they would get to go to college, too. For five years, I’ve had dinner with those students every month. One of them even threw Priscilla and me our first baby shower. And next year? They’re going to college”

Zuckerberg and Chan, who have a daughter and are expecting their second child later this year, also announced an ambitious effort last September called “Chan Zuckerberg Science.” The $3 billion-plus initiative aims to prevent, cure or manage “all diseases in our children’s lifetime.”

Harvard appears to hold special significance for Zuckerberg, who created what was then called “The Facebook” in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 before dropping out his senior year to pursue Facebook full-time.

Since then, the social network has become the third most-trafficked website in the world. Now Facebook employs over 18,000 people and currently reports 1.28 billion daily active users, 86% of whom live outside the US and Canada.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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