James Jake Jakobsen

  • Born: May 25, 1927
  • Died: February 13, 2016
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service

2720 Muscatine Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240

Tel. (319) 338-1132

Tribute & Message From The Family

James F Jakobsen of Iowa City died Saturday, February 13th following a short illness.

James, called Jake by his friends, was born May 25, 1927 in Chicago Illinois, the son of Helen Andersen Jakobsen and Fredrik Jakobsen. His father had immigrated to America from Norway at the age of 18, while his mother was born in the United States, although of Norwegian parents. Jake was raised in Chicago and attended Taft High School, where he was elected president of the senior class. After his 18th birthday, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Finance Corps of the 5th Army, 1944-1945. Following his discharge he worked at Niehoff Automotive Products in Chicago. He then attended Southwest Missouri State (SMS), majoring in Mathematics and Economics and receiving a B.S. degree in 1950. While at SMS he met Jane Robinette. They married in 1951 and together attended graduate school at the University of Missouri in Columbia. Jake received the MA in mathematics 1952 and the PhD in 1959. That year he was appointed as an instructor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Iowa, where he served in several roles, including Department Associate Chairman.

In 1968 Jake was appointed Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs in the Graduate School. At the time of his retirement in 1998, he was Senior Associate Dean for Administrative Affairs.

His responsibilities in the Graduate College included serving as liaison to the Graduate Student Senate, which honored his longstanding commitment to graduate student education by renaming their Graduate Forum the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Forum. In his time as Dean, Jake was also dedicated to recruiting under-represented minorities, women, and international students. He served a number of years as Director of the Summer Research Opportunity Program at Iowa. He played an instrumental role in the development of several awards and fellowships to provide opportunities to graduate students. He was a member of the American Mathematics Society and the Mathematics Association of America.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Robert and his sister Mary Ann. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Jane, son Thomas, daughter Janet, and grandchildren Emily and Craig.

A one hour Visitation will precede the service beginning at 4pm on Friday February 19, 2016 at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, where he was a long time member.

In lieu of flowers, Memorials may be directed to University of Iowa Foundation in support of the Graduate College, the Department of Mathematics, or St Andrews Presbyterian Church. Online condolences can be shared with Jake's family through the funeral home website @ www.gayandciha.com


Condolence & Memory Journal

I provided Dr. Jakobsen's dental hygiene preventive care for several years. I enjoyed seeing him at each visit and hearing about his family. He was a very gracious man who served the University of Iowa with distinction in many capacities and importantly, provided substantial support for diversity in graduate student education.
I extend my sincere condolences to his wife Jane and to their children and grandchildren.

Posted by Nancy Sisty LePeau - Iowa City, IA - Acquaintance   February 19, 2016

Jane, Tom and Janet, thinking back fondly of the times our families shared. My heart goes out to you all.

Posted by Ann Greenwood Rose - Friend   February 19, 2016

Jane and family,
I had some interaction with Jake in my various positions at the U of I. And sadly, did not have the honor of working with him directly. However, I have heard often of how truly compassionate he was with students. And as we all know that sometimes is not an easy job. . for Jake it was his way. Add to that the way he treated his staff . . .mentoring them, caring for them, and being Jake from what I came to understand. And a true friend and compassionate support system. Dean Jakobsen, aka," Jake" will truly be missed, especially by you, Jane, and your family. My heartfelt sympathy and care to you and your family. And to all who will miss him on a daily basis. Bless you all in this very difficult time.

Posted by Kathy Klein Gerling - Davenport, IA - Acquaintance   February 19, 2016

Jake was a true friend to our family. He became a part of my life when I was 13 years old and his son Tom married my sister Janice. His modesty, humor, and thoughtfulness made a great impression on me. Holidays, when Jane and Jake often joined us, were noisy at our family table. Everyone talking and telling stories. I remember one year when a talking Barbie doll had stirred up controversy because she said (among other things), "Math is hard." We were having a spirited discussion about why girl dolls shouldn't say discouraging things about studying math. Jake said, "But math IS hard." We all laughed.

I never forgot what the math professor said about the Barbie. It uncovered so many truths for me: How important it is to listen. How you can't just listen, but you have to question what is being said. That challenges and difficulty can be rewarding and satisfying. That clarity, humor, and the fewest words can make the biggest difference and a lasting impression.

I will miss Jake. My deepest sympathies go out to Jane, Tom, Janet, Emily, and Craig

Posted by Karen Greenwood Henke - San Rafael, CA - Friend   February 18, 2016


What a sad thing - for the world to lose such a fine example of what it means to be human, in all the best ways. Jane, I am at a complete loss of words to adequately express the loss I personally feel - not as great as you and your children, but certainly among the greatest losses of my life. What can one say about someone like Jake? He was in all respects the best colleague I have ever had the opportunity to work. And the word "colleague" is the best I can do to define the remarkable working relationship we had during the ten years I was Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Iowa. I never considered myself as Jake's "boss" and I think that he also felt more as though we shared the responsibility for much of Graduate Education at Iowa. Many of the projects that we implemented were primarily or entirely his ideas; few if any actions were taken without his wise counsel and blessing.

But apart from my personal relationship with Jake, I still am amazed at how he was able to connect with students (undergraduates in the SROP program; graduate students in over 100 programs) and faculty in ways that supported them in reaching for their highest aspirations. Countless students benefited from his advice (not adequate; perhaps "mentoring" would be better) as they progressed toward completion of their degree. His work with the Graduate Student Senate was especially important and I'm delighted that that group chose to honor Jake's contributions by naming the Graduate Student Research Forum for him.

Of course we all must move on, but we all will be better able to contribute our best because of knowing and listening to Jake. His is a huge legacy of good that will reap benefits and rewards for many, many years to come.

Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Les Sims
Graduate Dean Emeritus
University of Iowa (1991 - 2001)

Posted by Les Sims - Chevy Chase, MD - Coworker   February 16, 2016

I had the privilege of succeeding Jake as Associate Dean of the Graduate College after he retired. Jake was always a source of knowledge, wisdom and support as I tried to emulate him and his style of interacting with and supporting students. I too, learned many lessons from Jake and consider him one of my mentors as I have grown into my current position over the years. He was a "once in a lifetime" type person to get to know.

Posted by John Keller - Iowa City, IA - Coworker   February 16, 2016

I worked at the Graduate College in 1981. My son, Randy was a Freshman at the University that year and was having trouble with his math class. Dean Jakobsen spent two afternoons working with Randy and told us that he had not received the "basics", which was not uncommon. I have never forgotten his kindness to a frightened freshman student - which was the way he treated everyone. The world has lost a great man!
Patricia Jenkins

Posted by A friend   February 16, 2016


Jane, The healing power and comfort of the Holy Spirit bless you, your family and friends. With love, Karen.

Posted by Karen Downey Beals - Hilo, HI   February 16, 2016

Jake set the tone for the University of Iowa Graduate College values and actions when I had the privilege and pleasure to work with him. It was wonderful to be a part of a team of deans where Jake's strong support for the students, his ability to work with the faculty, his appreciation and support of his colleagues, and perhaps most significantly his honesty and unbending integrity, were prime. Jake was a modest, unassuming man who personified, for me, an effecitve, good academic administrator. I join the many others who benefited greatly from knowing and working with Jake. My thoughts are with his family at this time.

Posted by Sandra Barkan - Washington, DC - Coworker   February 16, 2016

Jake took me in and mentored me when I was appointed an assistant dean in the Graduate College at the University of Iowa. I learned lifetimes of lessons from him about how to care about graduate students and do everything possible for them. He was a wonderful man and I will continue to carry his memory with me.

Posted by William Welburn - Iowa City, IA - Coworker   February 15, 2016

Jake was my academic advisor my first year as an undergraduate math major at Iowa. As a first semester freshman he put me in the proof algebra class and proof analysis class. The next semester I took an analysiseybxJ class from him. He certainly set me off in the right direction.

Posted by Dan Anderson - Coralville, IA - Student   February 15, 2016

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