Executive Vice President, Ricerca Biosciences
Principal, General Biotechnology, LLC
For trustee Gary Jacobson, Knox's mission to provide a quality education to
all students, regardless of means, hits home.
A first-generation college student from rural Sheffield, Illinois, Jacobson received a bachelor's degree in economics from Knox in 1977. "I do not remember what my family was earning at the time, but I know that we could not afford college without significant financial aid," he says.
Jacobson came to Knox in 1974, to play basketball and baseball and to improve his employment opportunities. "I remember wanting to go to college so that I would not have to work hard manual labor jobs, like many of my friends and family," he says. "Initially, I was concerned that the liberal arts were not preparing me adequately to advance this goal."
But those worries soon faded. Thanks to faculty mentoring, Jacobson soon immersed himself in the liberal arts. "I took political science, Asian history, philosophy, economics, Islamic culture, and languages," he says. "Coming from a small high school with limited offerings, I never really had the opportunity to fully explore diverse academic subjects. Knox opened my mind to a variety of academic and social interests."
The love of learning Jacobson gained at Knox has stayed with him ever since. "By the time I received my degree from Knox, I was motivated to experience new things like living in another culture and learning another language," he says.
Jacobson spent his first year after Knox in Glasgow, Scotland, on a Rotary scholarship, where he studied political economy at the Adam Smith School of Economics and played semi-pro basketball. He was sponsored for the scholarship by the Galesburg Rotary Club at the urging of Professor Wilbur Pillsbury.
"It was a great experience for me and has served me well in my work experiences ever since," he adds. "I am constantly looking for new business opportunities and have been fortunate to have the requisite skills and flexibility to make meaningful contributions to some very successful organizations."
Jacobson is now an executive vice president and shareholder in Ricerca Biosciences in Concord, Ohio, and concurrently is principal with General Biotechnology, LLC in Indianapolis.
When talking about finding success after Knox, Jacobson frequently expresses gratitude for the mentoring he received from faculty and staff, particularly Harley Knosher, Tim Heimann '70, Wilbur Pillsbury, Roy Andersen, and Lane Sunderland. "When I was getting out of college and trying to figure out what to do, I did not have a point of reference and needed a lot of help," he says. "The Knox family got me pointed in the right direction and counseled me frequently thereafter."
As a member of the Board of Trustees, Jacobson's passion to maintain Knox's commitment to access is evident. "It is important that Knox has the ability to take students of modest means and financially assist them in completing a degree, which can only be achieved through persistent fundraising," he says.
Jacobson knows first-hand how tough fundraising can be. He currently serves as finance and development chairperson on the board of the International School of Indiana and is on the board of Knox's Old Siwash/Prairie Fire Athletic Club. For Jacobson, the hard work is definitely worth the effort -- he believes that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for today's ever-changing world.
"I was honored when President Taylor asked me to join the Board, and it has been a pleasure serving with such a committed and dedicated group of trustees who all value Knox's mission as much as I do," he adds.