Don't even think it.
School Dean Emeritus Donald Jacobs is as busy as ever - as
a faculty member
Jacobs would like to set the record straight for those
well-wishers who stop him in airports, asking how he's enjoying
retirement: If and when he actually does retire, he will be
pleased to detail the experience for anyone curious.
then, it's much more likely to find the former Kellogg School
dean in the classroom.
while Jacobs seems happy and relaxed these days, he nevertheless
shoulders a workload that could give some junior professors
pause. At 78, he teaches four courses at Kellogg, runs its
Center for Risk Research and travels extensively for the
from a lunch meeting at the James L. Allen Center, he tosses
his suit jacket over a chair in his office in the building
that bears his name - a distinction granted in 2001 to honor
his 26-year tenure as Kellogg dean after he stepped down from
that role and Dipak
C. Jain assumed the leadership. Though always affable,
Jacobs smiles perhaps a little more easily these days now
that he has returned to his first love, teaching.
he does. He and longtime friend Doug
Gray, managing director of Chicago-based Braydon Partners
LLC and member of the Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board, deliver
a "capstone" course, Strategic Dilemmas in Business Design,
that leverages case studies and brings senior executives into
the classroom to offer MBA students insight into why ventures
succeed or fail and explores a variety of strategic issues
related to merger integration, compensation, outsourcing,
governance, and entry into markets such as China, among other
topics. In addition, Jacobs directs a Global
Initiatives in Management
(GIM) class to the European Union and leads a course on
risk management. He also teaches corporate governance, a subject
that has long occupied his attention. As if this wasn't enough,
he serves on several corporate boards, including ProLogic,
Terex and CDW.
some might content themselves with retreating to contemplate
the memorabilia of a robust academic life - the awards and
publications, the 10 honorary degrees in his office, his overall
accomplishments - Jacobs, who began his Kellogg tenure as
a finance professor in 1957 before being named dean in 1975,
shows little sign of slowing down.
as I'm enjoying it, why stop teaching?" he says. "It's hard
to leave something when you're having such a good time."
is obvious to those around him that Jacobs remains engaged
in the intellectual life of Kellogg, it may be surprising
to some that he no longer has anything to do with the school's
administration. This is a point about which he is unequivocal.
in no way part of the administration. That's not my job. That's
Dean Jain's job. I'm working for him as a professor, which
makes me very happy," says Jacobs.
Professor Jacobs have any gripes with the way things are being
run at Kellogg?
Jain is doing a fine, fine job. I have absolutely no concern
with the decisions that are made - and I don't hear about
them until they are made public."
says that the transition from dean to faculty member was made
easier knowing that his successor had the leadership, energy
and talent to keep Kellogg in the top ranks. And he had looked
forward to engaging the students full-time again, after years
of limited teaching.
to cut back," he says, "because the job in the dean's office
became too time consuming."
passion for teaching never left him. "As far as I'm concerned,
that's the joy of being at a university: You teach. I don't
want to denigrate the administrative side of things, because
that all must get done and it entails a lot of important work.
But teaching is the real joy for me. Unfortunately, they gave
me the dean's job for a while and then forgot to fire me."
to which Jacobs has returned isn't quite the same one he left
years ago. For one thing, he is teaching several subjects
instead of just banking. Then too, the business world has
changed, which makes the teaching mission that much more rewarding.
sounds enthusiastic about an academic schedule that gives
him the opportunity to indulge his intellectual curiosity
in a number of ways, such as introducing Zell Center research
on risk into the classroom, or traveling with students to
Europe for an annual GIM excursion. "I have a lot of colleagues
in the European Union," he says, "and it's great to see students
and friends in places like Brussels, Paris and London."
is no stranger to travel. This year he will teach executives
in Hong Kong and Germany, but he has also made several other
international trips. In August, he and Dean Jain traveled
to Thailand to teach at the Sasin Graduate Institute of Business
Administration, with which Kellogg has an alliance, and to
meet with its deans and directors. In September, he visited
China as a ProLogis board member and in October delivered
a keynote speech on reinventing management education before
an audience in Beijing at the Guanghua Business School. November
finds him traveling with Dean Jain to Tel Aviv to attend graduation
ceremonies at Kellogg
IEMBA partner, the Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business
I'm overdoing it, but the fact of the matter is I don't know
how to slow down," Jacobs says, smiling.
the teaching that he finds especially gratifying, and he works
to make the classroom an engaging setting for his students.
a firm belief in the value of structuring a highly interactive
classroom to keep students involved," he says. "This way there
is a discussion, a seminar feeling. As a student, I responded
to the same methodology that I try to foster. I liked the
professors who created a give-and-take."
Jacobs keeps the focus on relevant takeaways from contemporary
business so that students can leverage these insights in the
is you can teach the theory of how things are done, but then
you better demonstrate to the students that there is an application
of that theory, to make them understand that there is a bridge
between theory and application." he says, adding that he and
Doug Gray strive to deliver this balance in their dilemmas
are concerned with issues of today and tomorrow. We talk to
students in a language they understand, that challenges them
and that gives them the tools to achieve top results."
noting that the dilemmas course is designed to test student
skills across a range of areas in a "practically powerful
way." Gray says the class is "constantly being reinvented"
and relies upon the same innovation that has propelled the
growth of Kellogg itself - qualities he says also exemplify
Jacobs' approach in the classroom.
a 'be-the-ball' kind of guy and he loves to teach," says Gray,
who first met Jacobs some 25 years ago with the Kellogg professor
served on the board of Gray's company, Swift Independent Corp.
"He is an extraordinary academician and leader - that's obvious.
But some people may not realize that Don is also an exceptional
businessman with an ability to bridge theory and practice."
that the arc of Jacobs' career has been one of passionate
commitment to Kellogg. That his friend has now returned to
the classroom simply means Jacobs has returned to what initially
career grew out of this passion and an engagement with great
students," notes Gray. "In fact, as dean, he was really leading
out of this sense of intense dedication. So once he stepped
down from that role he just continued following his passion
in the classroom again. It's come full circle."
students likely recognize their good fortune at enjoying the
experience and insights of Jacobs, but their professor also
appreciates his opportunity to be among "some of the very
best students from around the globe."
interaction with students, colleagues and alumni that Jacobs
says helps him keep on top of important research trends, particularly
in finance and economics.
to be near people who are smart and from whom you can learn,"
he says. "The nice thing about being at Kellogg is that I
have colleagues I love to talk to and I keep reading all the
economic literature that I am used to reading."
all well and good, but what does Professor Jacobs do for fun?
is what I do for fun," he says, smiling and gesturing at his
office and the textbooks and papers that fill it. "If it wasn't
so much fun, I'd be gone."