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Pre-July 2009 Press Archives

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9/16/2008 Where are they now? Vince Jacobs

press image Vince Jacobs used to look out the windows of his classroom and see the Linfield College Oak Grove. Since retirement, his classroom has been on the open seas.

Jacobs, professor emeritus of history who retired from Linfield in 2002, is combining his love of teaching and travel, offering courses on naval ships for the U.S. Navy. So far, he’s served three two-month stints teaching American history and western civilization to military personnel for college credit.

He taught aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when the Iraq war started in the Persian Gulf in 2002 and taught aboard the USS Nimitz in 2004. Both ships are nuclear carriers and were part of the battle groups providing air support for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He also taught on the USS Cushing, a destroyer undergoing refurbishing in the dry dock in Yokoska, Japan, in 2003.

Jacobs witnessed first hand the toll of the military lifestyle. The Lincoln had been out for six months and was returning home when the ship was suddenly ordered to return to the Gulf for another three months. “Guys were crying,” he remembered. “I couldn’t blame them. But they pulled themselves together and prepared to carry out their mission as ordered.”

As a European historian, Jacobs describes himself as “an academic jack of all trades” who has been able to travel and teach around the world. During his 35-year career at Linfield, Jacobs traveled to more than 35 countries in Europe, Asia, the Mediterranean and North America. He led January Term study courses to England, Vienna, USSR, Eastern Europe and Hong Kong, to name a few. He wrote a memoir of his experiences in China, “Because… I’m Chinese – Conflict, Controversy and Paradox in Contemporary China,” which he describes as a light-hearted look at contemporary China.

In addition to teaching in the military, Jacobs also continues to lead classes through the Linfield Division of Continuing Education, which he’s done since the inception of the DCE program. Jacobs arrived at Linfield in 1967, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oregon, and then completed a Ph.D. from the University of Washington.

During his tenure, he chaired most of the faculty committees, some more than once, and served as department chair for “a bunch of years.” His favorite activity was coming to know the students, he said, and helping them deal with both personal and academic challenges.

“I’ve always felt that education has the power to transform lives,” he said. “It did mine. You can actually witness that as it’s occurring in the classroom. It’s very rewarding to open their eyes to things they have never thought about.”

Jacobs recalls with fondness the small classes and the close associations with students at Linfield, and said he really misses having an office in Pioneer Hall.

“An office for a professor becomes not just a place to see students, write books and articles, and sort through faculty business,” he said. “But it becomes a kind of sanctuary. I do miss that very much.”

When he’s not on traveling or sailing, Jacobs enjoys fishing, writing, movies and reading (he averages three books a week), and he is a devoted Wildcat football fan. He and his wife, Norma, have been married 54 years. The two spend winters in Arizona and California.

“It’s been a delightful, fulfilling marriage,” he said. “I can’t imagine any better arrangement for a good life.”

His advice to students? Forget the all-night study sessions.

“Read the text once or twice, and then think about the material,” he said. “Spend more time thinking and less time memorizing the textbook. You will have a much better understanding of the material.”

Jacobs can be reached at and welcomes contact with former students.