He was 67 and succumbed to complications from leukemia.
Before joining the Institute, Dr. Jacobson worked for 12 years as principal research scientist for the Genex Corporation in Rockville where he received patents for such widely diverse applications as unclogging drains and immunizing chickens against avian coccidia.
Dr. Jacobson, as chief of the Institute's Diagnostic Biomarkers and Technology Branch, developed and oversaw grant programs to support development of technologies to evaluate tumors for more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment.
A native of Idaho where his father owned a ski area, Dr. Jacobson grew up on western slopes and in 1960 was recruited to ski at Dartmouth College, where he achieved national prominence, including All-American honors, and once harbored ambitions as an Olympian.
Already an expert downhill and slalom skier, he also competed in less-familiar to him cross-country and jumping events while in college. His efforts earned him several skimeister awards, acknowledging his success in all four events.
His Dartmouth career also included membership in Casque and Gauntlet, a senior society, and the Gamma Delta Chi fraternity.
Dr. Jacobson was a member of the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, where he served on the board of trustees and as pledge drive chair.
Dr. Jacobson's survivors include his wife, Dr. Judith A. Hautala of North Potomac, a senior research analyst at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, to whom he was married for 34 years.
Their daughter is Erika H. Moore of Herndon, Va.
From his marriage to Ann L. Kelley, which ended in a 1975 divorce, Dr. Jacobson leaves a son, J. Bryan Jacobson of Nyack, N. Y., and a daughter Daneille CQ J. Magazin of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He also leaves two sisters, Judy Skeels of Lyons Colo., and Fea Jacobson of Longmont, Colo., and four grandchildren.
After graduation from Dartmouth in 1964, Dr. Jacobson took a Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Utah, did postdoctoral work at Yale University and then worked on the genetics research faculty at the University of Georgia before moving to the Washington area in 1980 and joining Genex.
Despite his prominence, reflected in awards from the Institute, a unit of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Jacobson was unassuming and rarely spoke of his achievements. Close friends and even some family members were unaware of the patents he held, and his family only learned he was an All-American skier at a Dartmouth dinner 20 years later. His easy spirit and quiet strength will be fondly remembered by family and friends.
Most of us know about Jake's love for the high mountains of the Rockies. As Dick Durrance (Jake's successor as team captain and later a highly successful professional photographer) put it: "He was a man of the mountains. He seemed to love that part of the world so much, I always thought it ironic that he ended up a city boy." I shared Dick's observation, but as I came to know him, it was clear he was a man of many worlds and talents.
I'll never forget the night Jake and I went to a Dartmouth Hall "classic films night" showing of "Shane." As you may remember, Shane was filmed in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, just over Teton Pass from Jake's home in Swan Valley, Idaho. Jake went to high school in Jackson and worked there summers. During the movie, he went out of his way to call attention to each of the Jackson residents he spotted who were extras in the movie. "That guy in the red shirt sitting in the chair! That's Henry Whatshisbucket! He owns the hardware store in Jackson! And that lady - that's Betsy, his wife!" When the camera gave us a panoramic view of the valley and the Snake River, Jake would happily point out the best places to hunt, fish, and swim. This scene-by-scene commentary went on for awhile. Finally, I turned to him asked if he could just "cool it" so I could watch the movie! (Heads of people around us nodded.) It wasn't 'til later that I realized that Jake couldn't have cared less about the movie's story line. For him, the movie was a trip home!
Jake was a warm, easy-going, quiet, and unassuming friend. . . and very easy to underestimate. He rarely talked about himself, preferring to learn about others. But if you missed his physical and mental toughness, his intellectual sharpness, and his quiet internal strength, you missed a big part of who Jim Jacobson was. He was a formidable competitor (maybe not a flashy skier, but he also didn't fall much). By his steadiness, quiet determination, and commitment to the job, he led without the rest of us fully understanding at the time just how much of a leader he was. Bob Hiller (a roommate and teammate) marvels still how Jake could be a serious, competitive, and successful skier and (at the same time!) still get high grades in organic chemistry.
But more than anything else, Jake was a loyal friend, always there when needed, whether with a personal matter or with "Big Race" jitters. He was a calming and generous presence. Jim Page (Jake's predecessor as team captain and an Olympic skier and coach) put it this way: "He gave without remembering and took without forgetting."
In reflecting on what I'd heard from teammates, and on what I was feeling, I realized how much of a force Jake still is in our lives. Since Judy gave me the sad news, I have been in touch with a number of Dartmouth teammates, all of whom commented on their sense of an important loss. But, more importantly, they also shared happy memories. Our conversations were occasions for sharing our deep sadness, but also for sharing the joy in remembering the good times we'd had with Jake. I realized that - even at the end - Jake was doing what captains do: bringing his teammates together for serious business, but also to celebrate the good stuff we all shared.
Rest in peace, Jake, and thanks for the memories.
January 10, 2010