Raymond “Jake” Jacobson

3 May 2012
Ray Jacobson in his studio
Raymond “Jake” Jacobson

It is my very sad duty to inform you of the death of Raymond “Jake” Jacobson, age 91, on Wednesday, May 2, 2012, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Jake taught art, especially sculpture, for 31 years at Carleton, arriving in 1955 as an assistant professor of art and retiring as professor emeritus in 1986. Jake was known for the vast amounts of time and wisdom he gave both to his students and to his colleagues. He was patient, but professional, expecting the highest quality.

In 1986, his former Carleton colleague, Albert Elsen, wrote of Jake’s artistic intent: “to create a work that would be equal to the marvel and mystery that lie in the shadows of nature… Jake’s tact as a sculptor is to make art like himself: sound and solid, never intimidating, but quietly persuasive over time.” He also said of Jake’s drawings that they “reveal even more of the man than his work in metal: a constant alertness, a warming range of sensitivity, a wider responsiveness to his daily encounter with forms.” Jake’s art continues to grace this campus, Northfield, and many homes, and his legacy as a teacher and mentor will be with us for a long time to come. 

The memorial service for Jake Jacobson will be on Saturday, May 12, at 11 a.m., in Carleton Skinner Memorial Chapel. There will be a visitation for family and friends beginning one hour before the service.  A more complete obituary can be found in the Northfield News. Arrangements are through the Bierman Funeral Home of Northfield. You can learn more about Jake, his life and art on his website, rayjacobson.com.

Please keep his wife, Jeanne, and all of their family and friends, as well as Jake’s colleagues and former students, in your thoughts and prayers.

In sorrow and faith,
Carolyn Fure-Slocum ‘82

Posted In


  • 2012-05-11 09:58:08
    Rebecca Riley, '82

    I am very sad to hear this. I will always remember Jake's patience and insight in teaching sculpture. I remember him as a very kind teacher.

  • 2012-05-11 10:27:27
    Stephen Selden '71

    Professor Jacobson - never Jake to me - was ever patient and kind. Visual art was my first major, until it dawned on me I lacked both ideas and talent. Professor Jacobson's nurturing spirit never allowed my shortcomings to interfere with his calm and quiet guidance. My hours in his studio remain a high point of my four years.

  • 2012-05-11 11:35:48
    Jim Hanson '67

    Mr. Jacobson was an instructor for Advanced Drawing for me. What I took from him in art instruction impacted my life for years--first, in seeking original art for my home, second, in my design interests in building my own home and, later, in remodeling projects for others. I'm sad to hear of his death.

  • 2012-05-11 11:42:08
    Jane Hibbard Williams '69

    Professor Jacobson was my refuge at Carleton, always a listener but by his comments and presence an inspiration for artistic expression and exploration. He inspired me to pursue a 30 year career in Occupational Therapy with focus on Creative Expression. Condolences to his family, friends, and students.

  • 2012-05-11 20:08:47
    margy klenk robertson

    Prof. Jacobson was one of my heroes, who taught me so much, gave me courage to pursue interest in visual arts. He was always kind, encouraging and funny; he believed in his students, a lesson I never forgot. I'm still grateful for his wonderful life.

    Margy, class of '64

  • 2012-05-12 00:30:10
    Dale Fierke, studio art major (sculpture), class of 1975

    I had been touched by Ray Jacobsen's kindness early on in my Carleton student life - during the first week, in fact. I had inadvertently been assigned to a campus job in the Art History department for which I was obviously unqualified. Unfortunately, when that fact was revealed, my only other choice seemed to be bussing trays in the cafeteria. Sensing that would not be a good use of my time, Jake - without missing a beat - took me over to the Carleton shop and, on-the-spot, arranged for me to work with Heinz, the college carpenter (a craftsman, schooled in the old German guild tradition). That act was a double kindness because, not only did it seal my admiration for Jake as a caring teacher and mentor, but it provided me the opportunity to learn valuable craft and life skills from yet another mentor, another true master of his trade.

    The inspiring thing about Ray Jacobsen was that he always seemed to be able to focus on the needs of others (students, family, colleagues, friends) and at the same time also be able to carry out a incredibly prolific and vital artistic life of his own. And the more he gave, the more energy and inspiration he seemed to have for his own work. As students, he wanted us all to succeed in whatever we did; and his love for his own life and work was a powerful example of how to go about that. He was the real deal, no pretensions - a kind and generous, endlessly talented man who seemed to have figured out how to live a complete life in this world and was more than happy to help the rest of us do the same. My wife Doris and I will miss him dearly. Our thoughts and prayers are with Jean and her family at this sad time.

  • 2012-05-14 01:57:30
    Elizabeth Doull Wright, Geology Major 1978

    Professor Jacobsen died on the first anniversary of my mother's death. I mention this because Mom had a long-running love-hate relationship with the sculptures that I created in Professor Jacobsen's classes. For over 30 years she claimed and displayed two of my sculptures prominently in her formal living room, adorning the scantily clad one with T-shirts when our three young boys or their cousins would visit, and relegating the more sensual, less conventional one (I think my best) to the darkest basement.

    I loved Professor Jacobsen's classes, and felt more at home in Boliou even than the Geology department. This tangible three dimensional art form was so honest and straightforward, no shading or flattening tricks were needed! But it required luck with bubbles, strength, a lot of plaster, and scary hot metal. It involved patience, and powerful anticipation. I also remember looking for and being proud of Professor Jacobsen's work away from Carleton; appreciating all of his hard work to conceive of and make something difficult look natural and simple. 

    Now both of my 3-foot tall plaster female nudes are proudly displayed (no T's) in my own less formal living room along with my mother's favorite small bronze "mermaid" on her lacy pad, a lovely accidental artifact of the bronze-pouring process. I fondly remember Professor Jacobsen listening to my questions and giving me wise advice to appreciate chance, and sometimes leave the seams.  I remember him and the pure joy of creativity, each day.

  • 2012-05-14 19:00:34
    Evie Haymaker Dolven '60

    Wonderful strong sculpture all around the Midwest;  when you see one of Professor Jacobson's pieces, you recognize it as his.

     Visiting him and Jean was always a "must" when in Northfield.   He always asked about my activities and talked about his.

     I began art courses taking his beginning drawing.  When I finally gave up working in art and devoted time and energy to other endeavors, he and Jean were just as enthusiastic about hearing about those as about my practicing art.  I'm sad that I will not be able to pay him a visit when I'm in Northfield.

  • 2014-01-01 01:05:59
    April Canaday

    My parents were his friends, and I have some warm memories of visiting he and his family. I also have some of his pieces, which were always treasured additions to my parent's collection, and now are a part of mine.

  • 2017-02-25 20:32:14
    David Hero Art major 1971

    We wish we could live forever, like our heroes. Plodding through our complicated lives, we assume that our mentors, our heroes, are immortally there to guide us through our lives. Jake was a magnificent man, artistically, philosophically and, as my mentor, manly. He brought to Carleton, to his students, and especially to me, a gift of joyous wonderment and involvement in the beauty of the world.  I will never forget. His elfish smile will stay in my memory. I am a better man through his guidance.