Mark Zuckerberg, Harvard dropout and CEO of a company worth nearly $400 billion, will be getting a college degree more than a decade after leaving his classes behind. The Facebook co-founder and chief executive left Harvard’s undergraduate computer science program in the fall of 2005 to devote himself full-time to building the young social network, which even then was seeing meteoric growth. Now, 12 years later, Zuckerberg will be giving the commencement address to Harvard’s class of 2017 and nabbing an honorary degree in the process.
The news was announced today in a post on Harvard’s website. “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,” Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement. “And few individuals can rival Mark Zuckerberg in his drive to change our 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 of course not the first big name in Silicon Valley to have dropped out and gone on to find success. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Oregon before starting his company with Steve Wozniak in 1976. Bill Gates, a fellow Harvard dropout, also left school after just two years to co-found Microsoft with Paul Allen.
Because of their shared history, Zuckerberg even made a slightly cringe-worthy video with Gates in which the younger entrepreneur asks the older, wiser Microsoft alum for tips on writing his commencement speech. (Gates gave one to Harvard 10 years ago, which Zuckerberg watched from the crowd incidentally because his future wife, Priscilla Chan, was graduating that year.)
In the typical cheeky fashion of a man whose net worth exceeds the GDP value of Myanmar, Gates left a comment on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, telling him, “Always happy to help, Mark. Good luck on your speech. Hope the honorary degree helps you land your dream job…”