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CS shines at Harvard Commencement

Rabin and Zuckerberg celebrated at 366th Commencement

Mark Zuckerberg and Michael O. Rabin, the Thomas J. Watson Sr. Research Professor of Computer Science, received honorary degrees at the 366th Harvard Commencement (Photo credit: Harvard University)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, and Michael O. Rabin, the Thomas J. Watson Sr. Research Professor of Computer Science, were among 10 awardees of honorary degrees at the 366th Harvard Commencement.

Rabin is pioneer of theoretical computer science, encryption, and internet security. He was described by President Drew Faust as “a high-capacity hard drive of Harvard computer science” whose “impact is as incalculable as his cryptosystems are uncrackable.”

Rabin, whose family left Nazi Germany in 1935, received his B.A. from Hebrew University and Ph.D. from Princeton University. In 1957, he joined IBM’s nascent research division where, with collaborator Dana Scott, he authored a seminal paper which would win him the Turing Award in 1976, the highest award in computing.

Rabin joined the Harvard faculty in 1981. Rabin is a member of the Israeli Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the French Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society.

Zuckerberg, reportedly the youngest honorand in Harvard history, was honored not only for his pioneering work in developing online social networks, but for his philanthropy through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

“He has forged a transformation through the power of connection and set his sights on how bold new ideas can serve the world,” said Faust in conferring the degree.

Zuckerberg, who was a CS concentrator before leaving Harvard to lead the startup that became Facebook, was also the featured speaker at Thursday’s Afternoon Program.

He urged the assembled alumni and new graduates to find purpose and show kindness. He shared the story of his first lecture at Harvard, CS 121 with Harry Lewis, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science. Zuckerberg was running late and in his haste to get to class, put his shirt on inside out and backwards. He joked the only person in class who would talk to him now runs a large part of Facebook.

“That, class of 2017, is why you should be nice to people,” Zuckerberg told the crowd.

Read or watch Zuckerberg’s full remarks on the Harvard Gazette.  

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Leah Burrows | 617-496-1351 | lburrows@seas.harvard.edu