Dean Jacobs

I am rarely at a loss for words, but I am this morning, so I will make this short. Dean Don Jacobs passed away yesterday morning. He was my teacher, my mentor, my colleague, and my friend. I first met him when I arrived at Northwestern Kellogg as a student in the Fall of 1977, and I immediately knew that this was a truly amazing leader. His love for the school, the faculty, the students, and the alumni was absolutely contagious. It was clear his focus was to make Kellogg one of the best business schools in the world, and everyone who knew him was convinced it was going to happen under his leadership.

Dean Jacobs and I stayed in touch after I graduated from Kellogg, and I cherished his frequent calls and sage advice during my years at Baxter. He also called often to let me know when he needed me to be a guest speaker or join a Kellogg panel. Once when I told him that if it weren’t for his mentoring and my Kellogg education I never would have been the CEO of Baxter, he responded, “I will never let you forget that.” 😉 True to his word, when he heard I was leaving Baxter in 2005, he immediately called me and said, “I am glad you are leaving Baxter. I now want you to teach.” When I protested, “I run companies, you don’t expect me to have a syllabus and grade papers, do you?” he retorted, “I think you told me that you would do whatever I asked you to do?” When I told him that I didn’t think I could teach finance (my area of academic study and early career) and compete with the brilliant Kellogg finance faculty, he asked me what I wanted to teach instead. Clearly, the idea of not teaching was not an option! 😉  I shared that I would like to focus on leadership, values, and ethics, to which he quickly responded that it was a great idea and instructed me to put a syllabus together right away and get started the very next quarter! The last 12 years of teaching at Kellogg have been the best years of my life, and I hope, God willing, to continue teaching for the next 20 years…and I owe it all to Dean Jacobs.

As one of my colleagues mentioned yesterday, “there is a hole in the universe today.”  Dean Jacobs was clearly a “force of nature.”

Following is  a “Poets & Quants” article that came out yesterday afternoon in tribute to Dean Jacobs. Do check it out:


  • Daven Morrison MD

    Dean Jacobs was a neat man and clear thinker; one of our favorite ideas of his is something we still teach today: direct/control-> motivate/develop->organize and plan.” The ascending 6 fundamental functions of management. It is a wonderful conceptual gift that helps all of us. Watching you and your values-based leadership concepts grow and then seeing them influence Kellogg and beyond is one of his greatest gifts he has given to leadership development. Will be thinking of you and Dean Jacobs today.


  • Harry. Sorry for your loss. Your words were an honor to a great friend and man. Peace. Jack


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