In Memoriam: Violet Jabara Jacobs

Violet Jabara Jacobs

The entire NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering mourns the recent passing of Violet “Vi” Jabara Jacobs, the beloved wife of alum and Professor Joseph J. Jacobs, the mother of Trustee Emerita Linda K. Jacobs, and an enthusiastic force behind the family’s steadfast support of the school.

At the School of Engineering, the name Jacobs has long been synonymous with generosity and service, and Violet was instrumental in encouraging that ethos within her family. The late Joseph Jacobs once wrote of the stunningly attractive young woman he had married during World War II, “One characteristic Vi helped me to crystallize was integrity.” He also widely credited his bride with instilling in him a love of fine arts and an appreciation for social graces.

A first-generation Lebanese-American, Violet had attended the Brooklyn Heights Seminary, graduating in 1932 at the age of 16. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that during her graduation ceremony, she proceeded down a flower-strewn aisle charmingly clad in white and clutching a bouquet of tea roses. That same paper reported two years later that she had entered Wellesley College as a student of advanced standing. There she earned a bachelor’s degree in French, and she later completed secretarial classes at Miss Dunbar’s School, on Joralemon Street. (We know, courtesy of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, that while there she earned a coveted bronze pin as the class’s most-improved typist.)

Violet began her professional career in the advertising industry, but when her husband founded the Jacobs Engineering Group in 1947, she became an active partner, toiling alongside him as he built the company into one of the most successful engineering concerns in the country.

Her devotion to philanthropy and community service was always evident. When her three daughters were in school, she was actively involved in the PTA and also volunteered for such groups as the American Friends Service Committee, the Huntington Hospital, and Meals on Wheels. That devotion became evident on a broader stage after she helped launched the Jacobs Family Foundation in 1988.

The School of Engineering has long been the recipient of the family’s incredible largesse—a fact commemorated by the dedication of the Joseph J. and Violet J. Jacobs Building on June 13, 2002—a date also auspicious for being proclaimed Jacobs Recognition Day by then-Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. While their contributions to the school are well known in Brooklyn circles, some might not realize that the family’s philanthropic interests are much broader and, during her lifetime, Violet was an avid supporter of economic and educational development in her parents’ homeland of Lebanon. (She was, for example, cited in 2004 as the largest individual donor in the history of the Near East Foundation to that date.)

In recognition of that passion, her daughter Linda established the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust in 2007, in order to help improve the lives of the people in developing countries of the Middle East and to foster greater understanding of Middle Eastern culture in the U.S. It is, inarguably, an important and timely mission--and one fitting to carry the name of the admirable woman whose passing we now grieve.

Our sincere condolences go to her surviving daughters, Linda K. Jacobs and Valerie Jacobs Hapke, as well as to the rest of the family (her grandson Andrew Hapke is a Brooklyn resident).