William Jacobs, Fifty-two Years and Counting

A Life at San Jose City and Evergreen Valley College

By Walter Soellner

In the straw-colored Montgomery Hills above Evergreen Valley College, the procession snaked their way up to a grassy knoll overlooking the campus belowand the city of San Jose in the distance. It was a beautiful spring day, April 20th, 1990. After eight years together, Bill Jacobs and his fiancée, Julie, would officially pledge their lives together in an open-air wedding, resplendent in long dresses and high-top hats. The story of their arrival at that spot, surrounded by friends and family, and the subsequent long tenure at the college spread out before them, is the story of a lifetime of teaching and service to others.

In 1937, far to the north of San Jose, in Nampa, Idaho, William Jacobs was born. By age eight, he was an avid gardener.In the fourth grade, his family moved to Seattle where he finished high school. During that period, he played football, was on the track team and ski team and took many classes in metal shop and wood shop. After high school, he served four years in the Air Force, stationed in several locations, including Greenland–where it was common to be sixty below zero during the winter when the sun never shone for three months. “When it sometimes warmed up to zero, some of the guys, including myself, walked around with our parkas unzipped to enjoy the warm weather!”

After his military service, Bill returned to Seattle and enrolled at the University of Washington where he earned a BA and MA in English Literature. From there, he accepted a full-time position at a new community college in Kalispell, Montana. From there, two years later, in 1969, he joined the faculty at San Jose City College. Six years later, in 1975, he was one of the faculty members who moved to open the new campus at Evergreen Valley College. He was elected to serve as one of six Center Coordinators (half chair—half teacher), after several years in that position,he knew that he only wanted to be a classroom teacher, that administration was not for him. As he says,“I love to engage with my students and see the lights come on in their eyes. What could be better than that?”It is estimated that over fifteen thousand people have had the privilege of being his student in over one hundred and fifty semesters in the classroom (including summers).

Bill taught under seven EVC presidents and rose to servein many local and statewide educational and union leadership positions–while raising six children. Among the many organizations Jacobs served on included the Faculty Council from which emerged the local union, first with CTA, then as an independent, and finally as AFT6157. In addition to being president of EVC’s Academic Senate for 5 years, he was also a member of the Executive Committee of the state Academic Senate, a group that makes policy for the community college faculty, and represents them when interacting with the state chancellor, the legislature and the governor. Upon retiring in 2000 (but still teaching part-time now) Jacobs, George Forrester and Walter Soellner created the Retired Faculty Association for SJECCD, AFT6157R, an ongoing enterprise with Bill still serving as president.

An active outdoors man, Bill often back-packed with friends for 4 or 5 days at a time and didn’t hang up his skis until age eighty. On one of his many intellectual excursions, this time to Arcosanti’s Philosophy Symposium, he met his now-wife, Julie, a philosophy student at SJCC. At their wedding, in classic form, the bride and groom had in attendance their wine maker, their music maker, their poetry maker and their wedding rings maker (Walter Soellner).

At the time, Bill was living on a ranch next to the EVC campus, and after their marriage, the happy couple bought a house in Naglee Park, San Jose, where they continue to live among hundreds of flowering plants, another great love of them both. I would be hard pressed to find such a versatile, dedicated professional with an ongoing lifetime of service in the teaching community as Professor Bill Jacobs, all-around friend and mentor to students, colleagues and those who know him best.

“Oh, did I mention? Bill owned a trucking company for ten years while doing all the above!” — Walter