The late Apple co-founder’s wife Laurene Powell Jobs is tiptoeing into public sphere, with her philanthropic agenda, immigration policy views
Marlene Castro knew the tall blonde woman only as Laurene, her mentor. They met every few weeks in a rough Silicon Valley neighbourhood the year that Castro was applying to college, and they emailed, bonding over conversations about Castro’s difficult childhood. Without Laurene’s help, Castro said, she might not have become the first person in her family to attend college.
It was only later, when she was a freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, that Castro read a news article and realised that Laurene was Silicon Valley royalty, the wife of Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs.
The story is classic Laurene Powell Jobs. Famous because of her last name and fortune, she has always been private and publicity-averse. Her philanthropic work, especially on education causes such as College Track, the college prep organisation she helped found and through which she was Castro’s mentor, has been her priority and focus.
Now, less than two years after Jobs’s death, Powell Jobs is becoming somewhat less private. She has tiptoed into the public sphere, pushing her agenda in education as well as global conservation, nutrition and immigration policy. Last month, she sat down for a rare television interview, discussing the immigration bill. She has also taken on new issues such as gun control.
“She’s been mourning for a year,” said Larry Brilliant, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund who is an old friend of Jobs’s. “She is now emerging as a potent force on the world stage, and this is only the beginning.”
“It’s not about getting any public recognition; it’s to help touch and transform individual lives,” said Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, a lecturer on philanthropy at Stanford who has been close friends with Powell Jobs for two decades. “If you total up in your mind all of the philanthropic investments that Laurene has made that the public knows about, that is probably a fraction of 1 per cent of what she actually does.”
In one of a series of interviews with The New York Times, Powell Jobs said: “In the broadest sense, we want to use our knowledge and our network and our relationships to try to affect the greatest amount of good.”
The fortune she inherited, making her the world’s ninth-wealthiest woman, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index, has catapulted her into the upper echelon of global philanthropists. Powell