There probably isn’t a person in the world who hasn’t somehow felt the reach of Jeff Bezos’ prolific businesses. The Princeton graduate and founder of Amazon is the world’s first centi-billionaire, and the first person in history to have exceeded a net worth of $200 billion.
Bezos received an electrical engineering and computer science degree from Princeton in 1986 and went on to thrive as an internet entrepreneur way before that term was a common household phrase. Inspired by the fact that Web usage was, at the time, growing 2,300% a year, Bezos decided to take a leap and quit his job to build an online bookstore, where he could sell millions of titles to people all over the world. That store became Amazon, and the rest is history.
In 2010 Bezos returned to Princeton to deliver the commencement speech, in which he expounded upon the importance of making the right choices, choices that would lead students to be the masters of their own destinies. “In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story,” he encouraged the students sitting before him.
A year later, Bezos and his then-wife, MacKenzie, also a Princeton alum, would bestow $15 million on the university to build a center focused on the study of neurological disorders. The Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics will help researchers examine brain activities that lead to decision- and memory-making, among other things.
Aside from his direct involvement with Princeton throughout the years, his experiences there often pop up in interviews as well. A few years ago, he recounted a humbling moment when he realized he would never achieve his goal of becoming a theoretical physicist: a fellow student was able to glance at a complex problem, one Bezos had spent a significant amount of time trying to solve, and come up with a solution within seconds. He credits that moment as changing his life—he realized he wasn’t always going to be the smartest person in the room, and if he couldn’t work “smarter,” he’d just have to work harder. Lucky for the world, he turned away from theoretical physics and built himself an incredible career through Amazon instead. His work ethic, business acumen, and knack for innovation are unmatched, values that began during his education at Princeton, and that he has held on to throughout his professional life.