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Priscilla Chan

“Mark and I have to give back”

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Priscilla Chan is the yin to her husband Mark Zuckerberg’s yang, says Kirsty Lang in The Sunday Times. Whereas the Facebook founder comes across as “robotic”, his 36-year-old wife is “relaxed and smiley, one of those people you can’t help but warm to”. He grew up in a middle-class Jewish family in upstate New York. Her parents were child refugees from the Vietnam War – they were smuggled out in “rickety” boats at the dead of night – and worked 18-hour days in their Chinese restaurant in Boston.

The couple met at Harvard, when Zuckerberg was facing expulsion for setting up a website that rated female students’ looks. They bonded over coding jokes, but Chan was initially horrified by his disregard for authority. “For strait-laced Priscilla, he was a bit of a rebel.”

They married in 2012 and have two children: Maxima, 5, and August, 4. On the day “Max” was born, Zuckerberg announced that they were setting up a foundation to give away 99% of their wealth. He was still bugging Chan about the wording when she was in labour. Chan, who has since given up her job as a paediatrician to run the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, eventually told him to finish it himself: “I have something else going on right now.”

The couple try to prioritise family time. Zuckerberg teaches the girls how to code in the evenings, and once left a corporate retreat with Rupert Murdoch early to get to their weekly date night. On the many travails facing her husband’s company, Chan has little to say. But she acknowledges that with their enormous wealth comes “a huge responsibility to give back and do our part”.