Obituary for Joan Jacobson |

Obituary for Joan Jacobson

Joan Jacobson

December 29, 2020

Joan Jacobson, a retired professor of nursing, passed away on December 29, 2020 at the age of 85 years in Austin, Texas. She was born in New York City and grew up in Manhattan. She graduated with a B.S.N. from University of Maryland School of Nursing in 1956. She earned an M.S.N. from San Jose State University in 1980 while teaching there. When teaching at American University in Washington, D.C. from 1979 – 1981, she began pursuit of her PhD. She and her husband, then Major General Ralph H. Jacobson, lived in Los Angeles where she taught at the University of Southern California and finished her PhD in 1989. They moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1987 for the second phase of both of their careers. She was a Professor of Nursing at Northeastern University in the 1980’s and at Simmons College in the 1990’s.

Joan was a remarkable woman loved and admired by many throughout her life which deserves a brief description with some highlights. She met the love of her life, ‘Jake’ Jacobson, while attending University of Maryland and he was attending the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. They were married in 1956 in New York City. Months before their wedding, she was approached on the street to be a contestant on the game show Name That Tune. Her episodes were on national television for several weeks where she kept winning and became somewhat of a game show celebrity. During their 58 years of marriage, they moved 22 times, to some locations twice. All of the moving did not phase her, she focused on her three children and enjoyed embarking on new adventures. Her first job was as department store nurse at Hecht’s Department Store (what is now Macy’s) in California. Her interest in academia was sparked in 1975 when she taught nursing classes at Salve Regina College, Newport Rhode Island. She worked as a substitute school nurse in California in the early 1970’s. In 1979 when she moved to Washington, D.C., and American University, she also worked for the Undersecretary of the Air Force, Antonia Chase, as a Family Matters staff member, and pioneer in creating needed services for military families dealing with frequent moves, long deployments, mental health and women’s health issues. Her doctorate thesis, in the Library of Congress as a textbook, addressed midlife women and contemporary issues. She also was the founding President of the Boston chapter of ARCS (Achievement Awards for College Scientists) Foundation. Throughout her life she belonged to and supported countless organizations such as local Officers Wives Clubs, alumni and nursing groups and the Boston Ballet.

After retiring she and Mr. Jacobson moved from Concord, MA to Park City, Utah where they lived for 16 years. Dr. Joan Jacobson served as Professor Emeritus and President of the University of Utah Nursing Development Board for ten years. During that time she led the fundraising campaign, and executed the construction of the new School of Nursing building. She served on the University of Utah’s Educational Resource Development Council (ERDC) as secretary, and wrote the newsletters. She also enjoyed writing a regular column for the Park City Record called “Ask Joan” answering subscriber’s questions about health issues.

They moved from Park City to Austin, Texas in 2013 to be near family. Joan was preceded in death by her husband, Ralph ‘Jake’ Jacobson, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and former president of Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is survived by her three children: Betsy Jacobson Klene (Brian) of Boise, Idaho, Matthew Jacobson of North Yarmouth, Maine, and James Jacobson (Mary) of Austin, Texas. She has eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren: Brigitte Klene Dudek (Scott), Jane Klene Leed (Andrew, great grandchildren Juliette, Grant), Charlie Klene, Steven and Maggie Jacobson, and William, Patrick (Cara, great granddaughter Libby) and Colin Jacobson.

A private burial service was held on January 22, 2021 in Annapolis, Maryland at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery on the campus grounds where she lies in rest next to her husband. A memorial service will be held at the U.S. Naval Academy in 2021 when the pandemic ends and it is safe to travel. In lieu of flowers, two memorial tribute funds have been established.

1. National Military Family Association, providing services she supported. Please click this link for information:

2. Querencia Residents’ Scholarship Fund for Employees, where she lived in Austin, Texas. Please click link to Austin Community Foundation for information:

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