Vi Jacobs: Longtime Supporter Leaves Lasting Legacy

Violet “Vi” Jabara Jacobs, a longtime supporter of Harvey Mudd College, died Jan. 12, 2015. She was 99.

Vi Jacobs

Vi Jacobs

Vi began her association with Harvey Mudd in 1973 when her late husband, Joseph J. Jacobs, the founder of Jacobs Engineering, was appointed to the College’s board. Violet and Joseph generously supported Harvey Mudd for four decades, and their most visible legacy is the Jacobs Science Center. The original building (the Science Building) was completed in 1959, but went through extensive renovations during the 1970s, after which it was renamed in recognition of Violet’s and Joseph’s support. Their gifts provided students and faculty with better laboratories and offices, and supported the endowment, student scholarships and matching funds for gifts received from alumni, faculty and staff.

For her dedication and support, the Alumni Association Board of Governors selected Vi to receive a Lifetime Recognition Award, which honors those who have provided outstanding and recognizable dedication to Harvey Mudd College over many years. Family members will accept the award on her behalf during Alumni Weekend in May.

“Vi and Joseph were some of the College’s strongest advocates,” said Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe. “Family members shared with the College that Vi was excited to hear that she had been chosen for the Lifetime Recognition Award, and we are looking forward to honoring her at Alumni Weekend. The College is very grateful for all that she and Joe did to make Harvey Mudd what it is today.”

Violet Jabara was the daughter of Syrian immigrants. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1915, she was an avid reader and a lively child, the first of her family to attend college. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1937 with a major in languages. After a gap year, which she spent in Beirut, she met and married, Joseph, also a second-generation Syrian. They had three daughters, Margaret, Linda and Valerie. Joe founded Jacobs Engineering in 1947, and they moved to Pasadena shortly after.

Vi was active in building the business from a startup to what is now one of the largest engineering companies in the world. She and Joe were philanthropists, believing that they should return to their country and community a large part of their fortune. They set up the Jacobs Family Foundation in 1987 in San Diego and gave generously to Joe’s alma mater, Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute (now Polytechnic Institute of New York University), as well as to the Sam Maloof Foundation and the Lebanese Ladies Cultural Society to provide scholarships for Lebanese children.

After Joe’s death in 2004, Vi continued to be engaged with the couple’s philanthropic interests as well as some of her own. She was a board member of the Jacobs Family Foundation and founder and board member of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. She served as a volunteer for the PTA, American Friends Service Committee, the Huntington Hospital and Meals on Wheels, and served as secretary for Westminster Presbyterian Church.

“She kept everyone around her grounded, because she never lost her humility, her sense of humor, or her insistence on the truth. She had a keen eye and a big heart-a winning combination,” reads her obituary in the Jan. 20 Pasadena Star-News.

Vi is survived by her daughters, Linda Jacobs and Valerie Jacobs Hapke and Valerie’s family: her husband, Norman, and Vi’s two grandchildren, Andrew and Claire. Her eldest daughter, Meg Jacobs, passed away in February 2012. Her husband, Joe Jacobs, passed away on Oct. 23, 2004.