As a fourth-grader at Houston’s River Oaks Elementary School in the early 1970s, an enterprising student learned about how primitive computers could connect with each other and provide users with information from far away.
The fourth grader in Celestine Barnes’ class would go on to apply his initial exposure to computers to become one of the richest men on the planet.
This week, Barnes celebrated her eightieth birthday. Her family wanted to arrange for a special present: a message from her former student, Amazon CEO and Founder Jeff Bezos.
Bezos attended River Oaks Elementary, starting in Mrs. Barnes’ fourth grade class, until his family moved away two years later.
Barnes’ daughter, Jenice Ravens, led the efforts to get in touch with the technology billionaire and asked him to give a birthday greeting to his former teacher.
“I want her to know that she’s special,” Ravens told a local TV station, “not only to me, but to all the people she touched throughout her journey.”
The 54-year-old entrepreneur obliged, delivering a video message to the woman he described as “one of my favorite teachers.”
“You may not recognize me,” he quipped. “I had more hair back then. But I remember you. You had a big impact on me. Great teachers do change lives, and we were all incredibly lucky to have you.”
The elderly teacher suffers from dementia, but she still recalls her famous student.
“Jeff is one who has been really outstanding. I’m so pleased for him. I am amazed to no end. I am truly thankful and grateful”
Bezos has maintained a connection to his brief time in Houston. In 2004, he spoke at a ceremony commemorating the school’s 75th anniversary.