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Remarks From The Celebration Of The Life Of Stephen Paul Jacobs, Held December 6, 2014

The Celebration of the Life of Stephen Paul Jacobs included more than 100 people who were at Richardson Memorial Hall to honor the memory and generosity of Stephen Paul Jacobs. Along with Steve’s family, friends and colleagues, also in attendance were several sitting and past Tulane School of Architecture Board members (Rob Dean, Mihnea Dobre, Casius Pealer, Lloyd Shields, and Marcel Wisznia), as well as the Provost of Tulane University, Dr. Michael Bernstein.

Welcome to all of Steve’s family members, friends from across the university and the community, alumni from the School of Architecture, colleagues from the school and beyond, and students past and present. 

This is, of course, a bittersweet moment for everyone gathered here. Many of you knew Steve better than I did and over a much longer period of time. No matter how long you may have known him, whether it was six months or six years or six decades, you couldn’t help being captivated by his qualities as a teacher, an architect, a scholar, and as a friend. In many cases, the people assembled here this afternoon knew him in several of these respects. 

We lost a member of our School and University family when Steve passed on January 5th of this year. 

During his illness in the latter half of 2013, I had the chance to spend time with Steve and his brother Gary and listen to his vision for the house after his time with us. We are assembled to both celebrate Steve’s life and to thank him for his generosity and vision in creating the Stephen Paul Jacobs House. 

According to his vision, the house will be used for Visiting Faculty, much as he benefited from a similar house early in his career at Tulane. He told me about his experience of living in the Saul Mintz House and how much it meant to him to have a place to call home before he became fully immersed in the community of New Orleans. 

We are inviting everyone to come over to the house following this event for an informal gathering, and you can see the love and care that has gone into the renovation of Steve’s innovative and highly personal house. 

Before I invite Gary up to speak, and rather than reciting the information about Steve’s life that you can find in the program, I want to reflect on a few things from both a personal and institutional perspective. 

Steve has left a legacy through his teaching and collegial relationships as a member of this faculty for many years. In addition to this, he now leaves a house that will add an important dimension to the community of this school and this university. On behalf of the entire School of Architecture, I want to express our deep appreciation for this gift. 

Now that the renovations have been completed, we are in the process of identifying the faculty member who will have the special privilege of being the first resident – the first of many in the coming years and decades. Steve was right in his sense that this would add an important dimension to the life of the School, and we will continue to do our very best to make sure that his dream remains a vibrant part of us. 

On a more personal note, I got to know Steve through our end of year thesis reviews and a few parties at my home. I was struck by his wry and sometimes pointed wit, his sense of joy in life, and his deep connection to the academic world of ideas. I also got to learn more about his relationship with his brother, his nephew Matt, and some of the other members of the family. He loved his family and he was much loved by them as well. I feel privileged to have had the chance to get to know him.

I want to take a moment to thank several people, without whom we would not have been able to realize Steve’s dream.

Beth Turner is someone Gary and I worked with closely in making the necessary arrangements for the gift to transfer smoothly. Beth, Gary and I have been in very frequent contact over the past year and, like Gary, I am impressed with both her skills and her sensitivity working on our behalf and in the best interest of Steve and Gary as donors to our institution.

Heather Veneziano is a graduate student in our Master of Preservation Studies program. After Steve’s passing, it became clear that we needed help going through his materials to make sure they were being handled appropriately and help in organizing things. I called John Stubbs, the Director of our MPS program, because I knew there would be some archiving work involved. I asked him who would be the best graduate student to work with me on this as a job throughout the spring and into the summer. That’s how we met Heather, and she has been totally dedicated to this task, for which I am deeply grateful.

I reached out to David Kiefer, an architect, neighbor and good friend of Steve’s for many years to ask him if he would become involved in the renovation of the house. He said yes immediately and we also invited two Tulane School of Architecture alumni whose firm was retained as architects of record – Michael Cajski and Van Tran of Volume Zero Architects. I want to thank all three of them for their fine work, which many of you will see when we go to the house after this event at Richardson Memorial Hall. Their work has been superb, sensitive to the spirit of Steve’s original vision for the house, while updating it a bit for use by future residents. 

There have been many people involved on the Tulane staff side, but I mostly want to thank three alumni of the School. Each played an important role in the renovation process – Dick Fullerton AIA and Mihnea Dobre AIA, both architects in the university architect’s office, managed this project for us very well. And Jenny Pelc AIA, an architect and adjunct faculty member at the School, did a great job as my “client’s rep” if you will – she is directly responsible for a whole host of coordination issues including the furnishings and so much more. 

Although he is not a staff person per se, I also want to thank Pierre Steuse. Many folks in New Orleans know Pierre as a highly respected structural engineer, and he is also a general contractor who has done numerous projects for Tulane over the years. He also had the great good sense to marry a Tulane School of Architecture alumna, Allison Steuse. 

I am grateful to those who put together today’s events: the School’s Development Director Rachel Malkenhorst, and Vicki Evans. 

Lastly, and before I invite Gary Jacobs forward, I want to acknowledge and introduce Provost Michael Bernstein. Michael is here to represent President Michael Fitts and Tulane University as an institution. His presence with us this afternoon is a powerful signal of the respect that we all hold for Steve Jacobs, for all he contributed to the School, and for the legacy that he has left us. 

Michael is also a stalwart supporter and enthusiast for the work of the faculty and students of the School and has gotten to know a number of our alumni quite well during his more than seven years as the chief academic officer of our institution. Thank you for joining us Michael. 

Many of us have worked tirelessly and faithfully to realize Steve’s vision, and no one more so than his brother – It is now my pleasure to introduce Gary Jacobs, with deep appreciation for all he has done for the Tulane School of Architecture and for the legacy of Steve Jacobs.

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