She dated Elon Musk at Penn, and saved a lot of their stuff. Want a memento?
"Life is weird," Jennifer Gwynne said of dating someone who went on to become the richest person in the world.
Jennifer Gwynne was a junior at the University of Pennsylvania when she met Elon Musk at a staff meeting for resident advisers.
Musk, then a senior, served as an RA at a freshman dorm next to the one Gwynne oversaw. One day, he knocked on her door.
“He showed up at my room with some Chinese food and asked if he could come in,” she said. “And I’m like ‘Of course, if you brought me food.’ ”
Within a few weeks, the two became an item and dated for nearly a year, from 1994 to 1995, taking trips to Toronto to visit Musk’s family and to Rhode Island, to visit Gwynne’s family.
But after Musk graduated and moved to California, where Gwynne visited him once before she returned to Philly to finish school, the relationship fizzled out.
“I go on record that it was mutual, because I don’t remember getting dumped,” Gwynne said. “We left on great terms.”
In the years since, Gwynne has watched her high-profile ex-boyfriend found company after company, from Tesla to SpaceX. This year, Musk topped Forbes’ World’s Billionaires list with an estimated net worth of $219 billion.
So what’s it like to see your ex become the richest person in the world?
“Life is just weird,” Gwynne said. “It’s hard to explain how weird it is, but to me, he is just my first college boyfriend.”
Now Gwynne, who lives in Columbia, S.C., and works for a large medical supply company helping to launch new products, is auctioning off photos and mementos of her time with Musk, in part, to help fund her 13-year-old stepson’s college tuition one day.
She was inspired to do so after seeing a story in December about how a homework assignment Musk graded while he was a teaching assistant at Penn’s Wharton School brought in $7,753 at an online auction by RR Auction of Boston.
“I ran upstairs and said ‘What do I have?’” Gwynne recalled. “With his media presence, I’ll get the most ROI right now. As a Wharton grad, he’ll appreciate that.”
Among the items Gwynne is auctioning through RR Auction are more than a dozen never-before-seen photos of Musk, including one of him in a Judge Dredd T-shirt, one of him in a tuxedo, and one of him in a trench coat holding a gallon of orange juice. Gwynne is also selling an emerald necklace Musk gave her and a card, in which he wrote: “Happy Birthday Jennifer (aka Boo-Boo) Love Elon.”
When asked if Boo-Boo was his nickname for her, Gwynne said: “It was after I needled him for not calling me something sweet.”
And did she have a sweetheart nickname for Musk?
“Oh God no,” Gwynne said. “He was Elon.”
Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction, said Gwynne’s collection is unique because there’s not a lot of Musk material in the marketplace.
“This gives you an insight into Elon Musk that you just don’t see. The way he interacts with the public now he’s a towering figure in our world and … here he is a college student having great time with his girlfriend,” Livingston said. “These are just fabulous clues into the personality of Elon Musk.”
Gwynne, who graduated from Penn in 1996 with a degree in English literature, said Musk, who dual majored in physics and economics, was intense and focused on the future when they dated.
“He talked about electric cars, he talked about alternate fuel sources. It was inspiring,” she said. “Penn is full of very smart people but there was something singular about his passion.”
Every once in a while, though, she could see a “boy-like nature” in him.
“He was just a goof from time to time,” she said. “He wasn’t very affectionate out in public, but he was all for quiet cuddles and hanging out together.”
Over the holidays in 1994, the two traveled to Canada, where Gwynne met Musk’s brother at Queen’s College in Kingston, and his mother, Maye, at her apartment in Toronto.
“Though we have wildly different backgrounds, I found Elon’s connection with his family and the support of his mom was something that attracted me to him,” she said. “Elon is a force in and of himself, but I know he gets a lot of that from Maye.”
During the visit, Musk brought Gwynne into his mother’s bedroom, where she had “a bunch” of emerald necklaces which he told her were from his father’s emerald mine in South Africa. He gave Gwynne one as a gift.
“Talk about a crazy story,” she said. “It’s one of my core memories.”
After Musk graduated from Penn in 1995, he moved to California, but the two kept in touch during Gwynne’s summer abroad in London that year. When she returned, she visited Musk in Palo Alto, where he was living in a second-floor apartment and going to pitch meetings.
“I went to see him as he was literally starting everything at that point,” she said. “It was an interesting moment in his life.”
But after Gwynne came back to Philly for her senior year, their long-distance relationship ended because Musk didn’t like talking on the phone. She hasn’t spoken to him since.
Gwynne, who married in 2020, said her husband is “really cool” with her having a famous ex.
As of Thursday, the highest bids in the online auction, which runs until Sept. 14, include $5,643 for the signed card and $3,384 for the emerald necklace. Some of the photos have bids of several hundred dollars each, including a goofy picture of Musk upside down, which has a high bid of $520.
Livingston is pleased with bidding so far but said he expects it to get “quite higher” as the auction nears its end.
Gwynne said she didn’t keep any mementos of her time with Musk for herself; everything she had is up for sale.
“This is all I got. This and my memories,” she said. “And I really do have fond memories.”