Donald P. Jacobs, dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management from 1975 until 2001 and professor of finance since 1957, died October 30, surrounded by his children. He was 90. Dean Jacobs was praised for his intelligence, tenacity and vision which transformed Kellogg into one of the world's premier management education schools.
“A man of high standards and great warmth, Don Jacobs shaped the careers of thousands of Kellogg faculty, students and staff. In addition to his work at Kellogg, Don sat on numerous boards. Combined, he quite literally influenced a generation of business leaders in a way that no one person will ever be able to do again,” said Sally Blount ’92, dean of the Kellogg School of Management. “For me, he was both a mentor and friend. The bravery he modeled in the choices he made on behalf of Kellogg over his 26 years as dean has been and will continue to be a daily source of inspiration to me and countless others.”
“Don Jacobs was a transformational leader for Kellogg, for Northwestern, and for American higher education. To a great extent, he created the model for business education through the combination of a dynamic MBA curriculum, outstanding PhD programs and intensive executive education,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro. “Under Dean Jacobs' leadership, Kellogg achieved extraordinary success and international recognition that continues today. We will miss him greatly.”
Kellogg was an early and influential proponent of the team-based learning model. This approach emerged from Jacobs' belief that management is a group activity, not an individual pursuit. This pioneering model has become the norm in almost every Kellogg course and has been adopted by countless other business schools around the globe.
In the late 1990s, Jacobs began sowing the seeds of what has become Kellogg’s premier executive MBA global network. The partnerships he built with leading institutions around the world include the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University in Beijing, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration at Tel Aviv University, Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, and WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar. These partnerships have enabled Kellogg to offer a distinctive approach to global education, combining deep knowledge and experience in global practices with rich, local expertise.
Jacobs also was a founder in the field of executive education. He was committed to continuous learning and had a vision to bring together a network of professionals, faculty from multiple disciplines and accomplished practitioners to exchange ideas and open new perspectives. This vision came to life as Kellogg began offering shorter-term executive education sessions to talented mid-career business professionals. Under his leadership, Kellogg opened the James L. Allen Center in 1979. This continuing-education center, the first of its kind, today hosts more than 6,000 executives each year.
"Don Jacobs was an outstanding and creative dean of the Kellogg School of Management,” said Philip Kotler, S.C. Johnson & Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at Kellogg. “I knew Don for 50 plus years and I marveled at his intuitive genius. It was Don who convinced me to teach marketing rather than economics. His idea was that marketing needed a PhD economist from Chicago and MIT to raise marketing’s impact. We all will deeply miss Don."
Beyond his many contributions to academia, industry and the public sector, Jacobs’ influence on the Kellogg culture is cherished by Kellogg faculty, staff, students and alumni. He helped define Kellogg as a place that values collaboration, mentorship, humility and inclusion. He created a collegial environment among faculty that led to the sharing of best teaching practices and a formal faculty mentorship program, one of the first of its kind at a top business school. This method became known as “the Kellogg way” of achieving classroom excellence.
After Jacobs retired the “dean of deans” remained a vital member of the Kellogg faculty, teaching multiple courses, managing the Zell Center for Risk Research and traveling extensively for the school.
In addition to his Kellogg deanship, Jacobs was named the Gaylord Freeman Professor of Banking in 1979. From 1960 to 1975, he was director of Kellogg’s Banking Research Center, and chairman of the department of finance from 1969 to 1975.
Jacobs was awarded 10 honorary degrees from the U.S., Middle East, Asia and Europe. He was the senior economist for the Banking and Currency Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 to 1964, and from 1970 to 1971 he served as co-staff director of the Presidential Commission on Financial Structure and Regulation (The Hunt Commission). In 1980, he was named officer of the Association des Membres de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (France). In 1999 he was appointed a knight commander of Thailand's Most Admirable Order of Direk-Gu-Na-Bhorn, and in 2003 he was named an officer of the Kroon Order by the King of Belgium.
Jacobs also served as chairman of the board for Amtrak from 1975 to 1979. He served as director of many corporate boards including Commonwealth Edison Co., ProLogis Inc., Terex Corp. and CDW Corp. He was also on the board of advisors for Greenwich Associates and Allstate Bank.
Jacobs grew up on Chicago’s West Side, then enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17, just as World War II was drawing to a close. He completed his undergraduate studies at Chicago’s Roosevelt University, then went on to earn a PhD in economics at Columbia University in New York. In 1957, he joined Northwestern as an assistant professor of finance.
The Jacobs Wing in the new Global Hub and the Donald P. Jacobs Center are but two testaments of the importance of his legacy.
In partnership with Jacobs' children, Kellogg has established the Donald P. Jacobs Memorial Fund in his honor. In the coming months, the Kellogg and Northwestern community will come together to celebrate his life and legacy.