Going to High School with Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs' high school yearbook picture

Steve Jobs, in addition to being the visionary CEO of Apple,
was a graduate of Homestead High School, class of 1972.

The cinderblock campus in Cupertino CA backs up to I-280, “the world’s most
beautiful freeway,” but I suspect it was and isn’t much different from any
American high school where teens are categorized and stereotyped on the way to
the rest of their lives. On paper, it looks like I had a great time there; I
was editor of the school newspaper, a song-girl who danced with the band, a
competitor on the gymnastics team, a foreign exchange student to Switzerland, and secretary of the senior class which included Steve Jobs.

Like most high schools, ours was divided into groups: the jocks, the nerds, the
drama people and so on. But we shared a certain mindset in the early 1970s. Somebody
was cultivating marijuana plants in a campus flower bed and we all pretended
not to notice. The school’s dress code banned jeans, so one day everyone wore
jeans and the dress code was changed. We boycotted the annual competition that
assigned each class a day to decorate the school with spirit posters; the class
of ‘72 cleaned up the mess left behind by the freshmen, juniors and sophomores
and posted a single banner over the pile of trash that read: “Spirit comes from

It would be nice if I could say that Jobs’ stirring 2005 commencement speech at
Stanford University recalled the inspiring words of his address to his
graduating senior classmates at Homestead High. But Jobs was probably never
even considered as a commencement speaker.  He did, however, make a statement in the
senior talent contest by putting on a laser light show at a time when most of
us had never even heard of lasers. He followed his own path, and that made him
kind of an outsider with those who followed the crowd.  What Jobs and Steve Wozniak were inventing in
that garage, not far from my high school boyfriend’s house, might have made an
interesting story for the school paper. If only I had known about it.

When our class held its 20th reunion in 1992, Steve Jobs was there. He
introduced me to his wife, proudly saying she had gone to Stanford, like
I did. Then we all went to the welcome table to pick up our name tags, which
showed our high school graduation photos above our names. Someone had already
stolen Jobs’ name tag, perhaps recognizing it as a collectible souvenir.  A few years ago, when it was announced that
Jobs had cancer, some of us got together to see if we could send him a get-well
message of support. We’ll never know if it got past all the layers of security
to reach him.

Very few people on the planet will make the impact of a Steve Jobs, but many of my
Homestead classmates have gone on to change the world in ways big and small.
Our crazy head cheerleader, Debra Jarvis, became a hospice care minister with a
fearless sense of humor that helped her win her own battle with breast cancer.
Drama standout John Paizis creates performing opportunities for young actors
with disabilities in Los Angeles. Band leader Carl Ho is now a leading earthquake scientist, and many more…

Dave Marshall, now director of secondary schools in Bullitt County Kentucky, inspires a new generation of students and teachers with a slide show about the
people he should have known better in high school. Among those on the list:
novelist Amy Tan (who went to a nearby school), Joe Kane, the first man to
navigate the length of the Amazon River and write a book about it, and former
US Olympic soccer coach Steve Sampson, whose brother Mike was in the class of ‘72. Read more in an earlier blog post here:

Much has been written about Steve Jobs’ legacy, but I hope there’s a lesson here for
all high school kids who might be sitting in class right now with the next
great American visionary.  Try not to see the fat kid, or the loser, or the geeky weirdo. The guy with the long hair or the girl with the funny-looking nose just might change the world.  And so can you.

An update from my husband, Bill Clement, who remembers meeting Steve Jobs and his wife at the Homestead reunion:

“I stood across from Steve Jobs, one on one, face to face.
Can you imagine? It was, however, not an awkward moment. I simply remember
noticing that he was not wearing his Homestead nametag. I said, “Where is your
nametag, Steve?” He looked as though this is exactly what he wanted to talk
about and did. Apparently, someone took it, someone stole it, from the check-in table. When Steve arrived, it was not
there for him.

Steve went on to talk about this, but I remember his final words
on the subject, “I really wanted that nametag”! At this point in Steve Jobs’
life, he had millions and would eventually have billions in the bank a few
years after this reunion; he had power and he had the respect of the world. But
he “wanted that nametag.” It meant something to him.

A couple of things…

One, I realize while standing with Steve Jobs that his
youthful years had meaning and the smallest of things can leave a sentimental
void. While my conversation with Steve Jobs was only fleeting, I saw firsthand
that he was just like the rest of us in some ways, the good ways. Like millions
of people, maybe billions, I too will miss Steve Jobs.

Finally, I wish that the person who thought it seemed like a
good idea to take Steve Jobs’ Homestead reunion nametag would return it. I am
sure it has no value to anyone other than to Steve & his family. You cannot
sell it; we now all know that real story behind this paper & plastic tag.
Stick it in an envelope and send it to the CEO of Apple. I am sure it will finally
find its way home.”