Dr. Edward Zuckerberg D.D.S. and his wife Karen, a psychiatrist, live in the same home in Dobbs Ferry they bought in 1981. Besides installing a considerable amount of new technology, both the house and Zuckerberg's connected dental office remain almost entirely unchanged.
Zuckerberg raised his four children, Randi, Mark, Donna and Arielle, in that house—which, he thinks, was probably one of the first in Westchester to have a computer and dial-up Internet.
“Back in the 80s, I chose to do my banking with Citibank,” said Zuckerberg, pausing, waiting for me to ask ‘Why?’ (I finally did.)
“It was the first bank to offer online banking that early on; we were beta testing,” he explained. “It would take a full hour to pay three checks, and my wife would come in and say, ‘I could have written those by hand in five minutes.’ She thought I was crazy.”
But Zuckerberg’s dedication to being on the cutting edge of new technological advances has both propelled his own dental business—and, well, clearly it rubbed off a little on his kids as well.
“I’ve never been afraid to get in early with technology; that’s the only way to stay ahead,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”
Zuckerberg had his house wired for high-speed internet in 1996, so his kids had access to the Web, scanners, and printers before many office managers even knew what those were.
The dental office has been computerized since 1986; Zuckerberg was one of the first dentists to implement digital x-rays, which give off less radiation, in 1999.
“That was a no-brainer for me,” he said. “ I don’t know why every office doesn’t have it. Even now.”
He also got on board early with “drill-free” dentistry and bought a panoramic x-ray machine, which can pick-up more complicated issues like jaw abnormalities and third molars.
Zuckerberg now spends about half of his work time seeing patients in Dobbs Ferry and the other half presenting to dentists throughout the world about making their offices more advanced and using technology as a means for marketing. He and Karen will embark on a country-wide tour of Austrailia, both sight-seeing and lecturing.
“I was an early-adopter of social media,” Zuckerberg sadid. “Yes, even before my son created Facebook.”
Zuckerberg does have “’Like” Us on Facebook’ stickers throughout his office, but they’re not there to show off that his son is the founder and CEO of the company.
“I worked hard for my page’s Facebook ‘Likes,’” Zuckerberg said. “It was hard in the beginning. I had to work to get people to comment on posts and share them with their friends. The number climbed slowly and then jumped once I reached a certain point. It’s not like I could call headquarters and ask for them.”
Like almost any new grandfather, Zuckerberg said having his first grandchild—Randi’s son Asher, now 15 months—has changed his life more than anything.
So how has Zuckerberg’s life changed as a result of Facebook?
“We spend about half of our lives in California, because that’s where all our kids live now,” he said. “It’s frustrating that we can’t go out to new restaurants without people pointing at Mark and taking pictures of him. We have to go to places we know can give us private rooms.”
Zuckerberg said he’s always flummoxed by local media outlets trying to dig into his life by asking restaurant owners and dry cleaners if they know them—something which happened again recently after Facebook went public.
“Yes, we’re normal people,” he said. “We get our dry cleaning done. And that’s what the store owners tell them. They say, ‘Yes, the Zuckerbergs are nice, regular people.’”
Rather than retire early due to the unforeseen circumstances of his son's success, Zuckerberg said he's actually been working longer than he'd anticipated.
"I always thought I'd make my mark on the world through providing my patients with the best and most painless dental services that were available," he said. "I guess in my life things worked out differently. But I do know people still respect me as a dedicated dentist."
Once he does retire, Zuckerberg hopes to work with his son on using some of Facebook's philanthropic funds to provide dental services to people who can't afford them.
Zuckerberg said his gauge for whether he could remain out of the limelight has been whether he could hand his credit card to an employee at a store or restaurant and not have anyone ask whether he’s related to Mark.
“Until about two years ago, I had 90-percent success rate,” he said.
That all changed when Mark was named Times Magazine’s "Man of the Year." “Now I have about a 20-percent success rate, if even,” he said.
Outside of Westchester, Zuckerberg said most people don’t ask whether he’s related, they just say something like, “Wouldn’t it be nice if you were related to that Mark Zuckerberg kid?”
“I just chuckle,” Zuckerberg said. “And I say, ‘Yeah, it would.’”