A Faculty Tribute to Dean Joanne Jacobson Upon Her Retirement
Editor’s Note: In honor of Dean Joanne Jacobson’s departure from Yeshiva College after nearly 30 years as a beloved professor of English and valuable administrator, the Commentator has decided to publish a tribute to her written by several members of the Yeshiva College faculty.
We thank English department chair Professor Lauren Fitzgerald for her idea for this piece, and for her effort in obtaining the faculty quotes.
When I was asked to contribute an article to The Commentator about [Dean] Joanne Jacobson’s work and longtime dedication to Yeshiva College as a Professor of English and Dean of Academic Affairs, it immediately occurred to me to ask for help: Dean Jacobson is, above all, a gifted community builder—someone who connects to people and forges connections among them—so it only seemed fitting that this tribute be a collaborative effort. What follows are heartfelt comments by just some of the many colleagues from across the disciplines who’ve come to admire her over her nearly 30 years at YU. Their recollections reveal her many roles and talents—as teacher, mentor, writer, administrator, leader, friend, and human being. We will all miss her enormously.
--Lauren Fitzgerald, Chair, YC English, Director, Wilf Campus Writing Center
In the Fall of 1992, my first semester in Yeshiva as an undergraduate, I was a student in Dr. Joanne Jacobson’s Composition class. I have vivid memories of some of the experiences from that course, including, for example, our discussion of the Kitty Genovese murder case and writing a paper about the first Gulf War. The impression made on me from that class which has lasted 26 years was not due to the informational content per se, but rather due to the depth of feeling with which Dr. Jacobson conveyed it. That is, of course, the mark of a good teacher. I thank her for that lasting experience and wish her all the best in the next stage of life which she is now beginning!
--Judah Diament, Co-Chair, YC Computer Science
It's very hard for me to imagine Yeshiva College without Dr. Jacobson. I was a student in her class in American Literature back in the 1990s and learned much from her then about literature, reading, and the interplay between texts and the world they are representing and creating. Since then, I've learned immeasurably more from Joanne, as a mentor, an administrator, a colleague, and a friend. I will miss her!
--Aaron Koller, Chair, YC Beren Department of Jewish Studies
In addition to admiring Joanne for her beautiful writing, photography, analytical thinking and playfulness, I admire her gifts as an administrator. So many times in meetings I have watched her grapple with a knotty issue, mull it to transparency on the spot, then propose a practical and wise solution. She has been a great advocate for faculty and students and understands the importance of friendship and comradeship on the job.
--Barbara Blatner, YC English
There's an adage in nonfiction writing that when you don't know what else to do, get more honest. The implication is not to become confessional, but rather to more clearly confront or specify or describe what's really happening. Professionally, personally, and creatively, Joanne has, time and again, brought this notion to life. In sometimes tense work meetings, in our friendship, and in her illuminating prose, she has shown me that grace is not a contrast to honesty, but an embodiment of it.
--Liesl Schwabe, YC English, Writing Program Director
As our leader, Joanne has earned our trust. She has done this by being honest and fair, even when she, like we, would have wished for better outcomes. From her years of experience, she has a finely-honed sense of how academia should run. Whenever I speak to her, I know that she is genuinely interested in what I'm saying and is willing to take advice and change course.
--Shalom E. Holtz, YC Bible, Director, Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Honors Program
It's impossible to imagine Yeshiva College without Joanne Jacobson. Students may know her as a dynamic, caring teacher, but for so long, she has been the person that faculty members turn to when they have an issue that needs sorting—someone you know will have a sympathetic ear and a clear way of thinking through just about anything. It's hard to overstate how much she will be missed.
--Rachel Mesch, YC French and English
“JJ” has always been an exceptional colleague, a mensch to the YU community and a dear friend to me. She has been a source of support, optimism and the well-needed laugh in between for many of us. I am sure I am not alone in appreciating her friendship and advice over my years at YU and in looking forward to her friendship and advice outside of YU for many more years.
--Silke Aisenbrey, Chair, YC Sociology
Joanne always is concerned with the well-being of her colleagues. In recent times she has been constructively obsessed with making sure that young faculty get fair treatment in evaluations and that mechanisms for efficient mentoring are in place.
--Fredy R. Zypman, Chair, YC Physics
Joanne is a trusted friend and mentor. I have thrived under her constant encouragement, be it my academic potential or my culinary skills, and mentoring – when she allowed me to shadow her for an entire year before I took upon the administrative position of Associate Dean. I will forever be grateful for her ability to listen to my thoughts and worries – be it professional or personal – and offer me well thought out advice. Joanne – I will miss you at YC, but I hope we will remain friends forever!
--Raji Viswanathan, YC Chemistry
As a junior faculty member starting my career at YU, I was very fortunate to have Joanne as my associate dean. She always found the time and the empathy to lend an ear and offer good advice. Her presence in the Dean’s Office and on campus will be missed.
-- Josefa Steinhauer, YC Biology
Without Joanne, not only would I almost certainly not have a tenure-track job, I very likely wouldn't even have finished my PhD. Just sticking my head through her door and saying hi was often the nicest part of my entire day. Joanne always has your back, is always there for you, and always tries to do the right thing.
--Daniel Kimmel, YC Sociology
Among Joanne's many qualities, we want to point out her willingness to listen, readiness to help and her being always very straightforward. We appreciated and valued those important aspects on several occasions during her tenure as Dean. Thank you for everything, Joanne --Graciela and Marcelo Broitman, YC Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
From the time that Joanne Jacobson arrived at Yeshiva College, she has been a paragon of civility and collegiality. Although we may not always have agreed on academic policies, I knew that when the discussion was over and a decision was made, there was never any leftover hostility or resentment, no matter what the result. Although I'm a few years her senior, Joanne was always the person to whom I turned when I needed a piece of advice about awkward institutional politics, and she never steered me wrong. She always cared deeply about Yeshiva College, and the College will be a poorer place for her absence.
--Moshe J. Bernstein, YC Bible and Jewish History
In addition to Joanne Jacobson’s devotion to her teaching and administrative work, improving education at YU, she has always found time for colleagues. From chatting about memoirs over lunch midtown to hosting an English faculty get-together at her apartment to answering e-mails with good humor on the most pressured days, Joanne has been a friend to many and a role model we will greatly miss.
--Linda Shires, Chair, SCW English
I arrived at the Dean's Office of Yeshiva College feeling a stranger. Joanne turned that around and gave me credibility in the eyes of the faculty. I am forever grateful.
--Karen Bacon, The Mordecai D. Katz and Dr. Monique C. Katz Dean, Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences
When I think of Joanne, the following attributes come to mind: principled, strong moral compass, responsible, reasonable, open, sensitive, compassionate, a good friend, and wise mentor. Joanne’s entire academic life has been devoted to creating and sustaining quality education which inspires and provokes us to be better human beings. Throughout her tenure at YC, Joanne has been completely dedicated to the College, its faculty, its students and its undergraduate mission as defined by the faculty. Joanne never sought positions of power. Nevertheless, when called to lead, she selflessly answered the call. As a leader, I was impressed not only by her interpersonal and administrative skills but also by her attitude and outlook. Joanne is at the core a pragmatist who doesn’t sulk about what cannot be accomplished – she is always focused positively on what can be accomplished. We have all benefited greatly from her prudent leadership and warm friendship. Thank you, Joanne -- you will be sorely missed.
--Barry L. Eichler, YC Bible and Cuneiform Studies
Among Joanne’s many admirable qualities is her commitment to speaking her mind while remaining empathetic. Her honesty, wisdom, and forthrightness inspire and encourage us, her colleagues and friends, to be our best selves, and to serve our college community with integrity. Joanne has been a wonderful mentor and a pillar of support, and I am deeply grateful to her for all that she has done for the arts at YU.
--Daniel Beliavsky, Chair, YC Fine Art and Music