Jobs' Wife Pushes Education, Immigration Policy Reform in Public Sphere

Less than two years after the death of her husband, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Laurene Powell Jobs, a longtime albeit quiet supporter of various causes, has come out publicly in support of education reform as well as policy reform in the areas of immigration, global conservation, and nutrition, the New York Times reports.

When her husband was alive, Powell Jobs stayed out of the limelight, even while serving on a number of nonprofit boards and working to advance education and immigration reform through Emerson Collective, an advocacy organization she created almost ten years ago. She also helped advance the work of College Track, which she co-founded in 1997 to increase high school graduation, college eligibility and enrollment, and college graduation rates among populations underrepresented in higher education. More recently, she has taken public stands on issues swuch as immigration reform and gun control. In April, for example, Powell Jobs participated in a rare television interview with Rock Center host Brian Williams to advocate for immigration reform while promoting a new documentary she commissioned, The Dream Is Now, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim.

"She's been mourning for a year and was grieving for five years before that," said Skoll Global Threats Fund president Larry Brilliant, a friend of both Jobs and his wife. "Her life was about her family and Steve, but she is now emerging as a potent force on the world stage, and this is only the beginning."

According to Bloomberg, Powell Jobs' fortune is valued at $11.5 billion, much of which is tied up in shares of the Walt Disney Company that her husband received in 2006 when Disney acquired Pixar, the animation studio he co-founded. How she might use her family's wealth remains to be seen; when asked by the Times whether she would join the Giving Pledge campaign launched by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to increase charitable giving around the globe, she demurred.

Those who know her best, however, have no doubts about the impact Powell Jobs will have on the charitable sector. "She knows that she is in an unusual position and has the standing to have a major impact on the world stage," said Conservation International CEO Peter Seligmann, where Powell Jobs serves as a board member. "It will be fascinating to watch the choices that she makes."

Claire Cain Miller. "Steve Jobs's Widow Debuts on Philanthropic Stage." New York Times 05/17/2013.