10 years ago, Mark Zuckerberg said to Harvard, ‘I’m not coming back’

Mark Zuckerberg  (right) and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz, in Harvard Yard in 2004.
Mark Zuckerberg (right) and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moscovitz, in Harvard Yard in 2004.

Ten years ago Saturday, Mark Zuckerberg strolled back onto the Harvard campus, having taken the semester off to devote full time to his startup, thefacebook.com. Launched a year and a half earlier, the site was already the second-largest online social networking site on the Web, and one of the 10 most-trafficked sites on the Internet.

Zuckerberg returned to Harvard, where he would have been a senior, to meet with computer science professors and recruit engineers and employees for his startup. That day, he also talked with the Harvard Crimson, and told reporter Sam Teller, “I’m not coming back.”

And he didn’t. Zuckerberg went on to build Facebook into a behemoth, with annual revenue of $12.5 billion and more than a billion monthly active users from around the globe.

But at the time, he was hedging his bets. Facebook spokesman (and fellow member of the class of 2006) Chris Hughes told Teller than Zuckerberg was leaving open the possibility that he might return to his studies somewhere down the road.

Zuckerberg, then 21, already had perfected his signature look; the Crimson said he was dressed “inconspicuously in an orange Puma sweatshirt, jeans, and Adidas sandals.” His wardrobe then befitted his financial status; he said his Facebook salary was “just” $65,000 a year. In the 10 years since, his salary has gone backward. Today, he makes $1 a year in salary. In 2014, he was awarded no additional stock in Facebook because Facebook’s compensation committee “believed that his existing equity ownership position sufficiently aligns his interests with those of our stockholders.”

That position? His roughly 4 million Facebook shares help put his net worth at about $45 billion, good for 8th place on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. And as for that Harvard sheepskin, well, there’s hope: Fellow dropout Bill Gates (who was supposed to be class of 1977) eventually got his honorary degree, in 2007.

Even Zuckerberg’s future wife, Priscilla Chan, made a cameo appearance during the campus visit. As Zuckerberg sat on campus chatting with a friend, Teller wrote, a woman passed by the duo. Zuckerberg a sked, “Hey Priscilla, do you want a job at thefacebook?

“I’d love a job at facebook,” she reportedly answered, “offering him a Twizzler.”

Seven years later they were married, in the back yard of their $7 million home in Silicon Valley, a day after Facebook’s initial public offering of stock raised $16 billion.