Edward Zuckerberg and Karen Kempner-Zuckerberg are Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest fans
Mark Zuckerberg's parents. Edward Zuckerberg and Karen Kempner-Zuckerberg, have been supportive of their son’s interest in technology since he was very young and tinkering with their home computer in the 1980s and ‘90s.
In fact, Edward describes himself as an “early adopter of technology” both at home and in his dental practice, which he ran for decades in the family’s hometown of Dobbs Ferry, New York, and then in the Bay Area, where he and Karen moved to be closer to their grandkids. Karen, a licensed psychiatrist, ran the business end of the dental practice for many years while also practicing psychiatry.
Now, they’re focused on the future. Edward consults with dental practices about adopting technology, works with companies developing artificial intelligence for dentistry, and spoke at the 2023 South by Southwest Festival.
They have four adult children: Randi, Mark, Donna and Arielle. Mark often expresses his feelings about his family on his social media platforms, including how being raised with such a strong support system inspires him and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan to carry that forward into their own family. The couple have three daughters: Maxima, August and Aurelia.
When Edward and Karen celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary in December 2022, he posted a photo of the couple celebrating over dinner, captioning it: “43 years with this amazing lady and can’t get enough of her. Back to our favorite restaurant where we have celebrated many anniversaries together. I love you KZ!”
But who are Edward and Karen Zuckerberg? Read on to learn about their experience raising their family, their work in philanthropy and their belief that technology can be a force of good in the world.
They met on a blind date
Both Edward and Karen grew up in New York, he in Brooklyn and she in Queens, and were enrolled at local colleges when they were set up on a blind date. Edward was studying dentistry at New York University and Karen was studying psychiatry at Brooklyn College. The pair married in 1979, while Karen was still finishing school, and they moved to Dobbs Ferry, New York, a year later, where they raised their family.
In his 2021 bio in the Doctor-to-Doctor World’s Top 100, Edward said that Karen’s psychiatric training was influential in how he practiced dentistry, especially with patients who were phobic about having dental work done. “Very early in my career, I realized that dental phobia prevented many people from getting the care they needed — and me from getting my treatment plans accepted,” he wrote. “I was fortunate to have my wife Karen, a psychiatrist, partner with me in my practice in our home, and together we developed techniques for dealing with phobic patients and an environment conducive to caring for them effectively."
They have four children
Edward and Karen welcomed their first daughter, Randi Zuckerberg, in 1982. Mark was born in 1984. Donna was born in 1985, and Arielle was born in 1987. They all grew up in Dobbs Ferry, in the home where Edward had his dental practice and Karen ran the business side.
Randi was previously director of marketing and a spokesperson for Facebook, but now works at Zuckerberg Media, a company that supports young entrepreneurs. Donna is a scholar of classics, with a doctorate in the subject, and an author. Arielle is a venture capitalist.
The Zuckerberg family inspired Mark to want daughters
Mark and his wife have been open about their fertility struggles and miscarriages but finally welcomed three baby girls into their family. When they found out they were expecting a second child, their first concern was for the baby’s health — but they also hoped they would have another girl to give baby Max a sister, as he and Chan both admired the women in their lives.
“We are all better people because of the strong women in our lives — sisters, mothers and friends,” he wrote on Facebook. “We can’t wait to welcome our new little one and do our best to raise another strong woman.”
In a Facebook post celebrating Father’s Day in 2017, Mark posted a photo of him hugging his dad, captioning it, “Dad, I hope to be as good of a father as you are. Happy Father's Day.”
They always prioritized education
Both professionals who had graduate degrees — Edward is a dentist and Karen is a psychiatrist — made sure their four children had great educations. Mark went to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy boarding school in New Hampshire for high school before moving on to Harvard University, where he created Facebook. “My parents worked really hard to make sure me and my sisters could go to good schools,” Mark said.
Their home was a technology-friendly environment
Edward always loved technology, buying early models of home computers back in the early 1980s when they were wildly expensive and didn’t really do all that much. But being raised in a home where computers where a natural learning tool undoubtedly gave Mark a head start on his life path.
“I’ve never been afraid to get in early with technology; that’s the only way to stay ahead,” Edward told Patch.com in 2012. “I think Mark grew up in the perfect storm: he was interested in technology, good at it, and our home provided a nurturing environment for him to explore and learn.”
One of Mark’s first inventions was to help his dad
When Mark and Randi were growing up, Edward was running his dental practice out of the first floor of the family home — but was running himself ragged going up and down the stairs every time he needed to communicate with his family. Mark came up with a solution: ZuckNet, a home network to make communication easier. “Anyone could log into any computer around the house and send a message,” Randi told PEOPLE in 2010. He was 11 at the time. “It was the first example of when he started building things -- and he never stopped,” she added.
They were there to watch Mark graduate from college — 11 years late
Mark Zuckerberg famously dropped out of Harvard University to pursue Facebook as a full-time career, enrolling in 2002 and dropping out in 2004 after creating the social media platform. The risk paid off: Mark is worth an estimated $106 billion now. In 2017, 11 years after he was originally slated to graduate, Mark returned to Harvard to collect his degree, with his “proud parents,” as he posted on Facebook, in the audience.
The family still uses technology to stay connected
After Maxima was born in 2015, Mark saw the possibilities of using his social media platforms to keep his parents connected to his young family — specifically, it’s part of why he wanted to develop Facebook’s role in virtual reality.
“In terms of capturing moments, hopefully in a year, Max will be taking her first steps. I want to take a 360 video of it so when my parents aren’t there, my grandparents aren’t there, they can experience it,” he said in a Facebook fan forum in 2016.
“They can be in the scene. They can feel like they are there in the living room experiencing that moment, there’s an emotional power to that, an ability to convey an idea in a much stronger way.”
Mark named an institute after his mother
At Harvard, Mark and Priscilla founded the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural & Artificial Intelligence, naming it after his mother’s family.
“Proud to launch the Kempner Institute for AI research at Harvard and name it after my mom (maiden name) and grandma -- with both in Cambridge for the launch!” Mark posted on Facebook in September 2022. “The Kempner will study the connection between how our brains work and how machine intelligence works. Understanding one better will help us improve the other and heal it when there are issues. This is part of our philanthropic mission to help scientists cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of this century.”
In the post, Mark explained why he named the foundation after his mother’s family. “Growing up, my parents and grandparents always emphasized the power of the mind,” he wrote. “It's meaningful to be able to recognize them like this, and I'm optimistic the Kempner will unlock important discoveries about how our minds work.”
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