Dennis C. Jacobs, Ph.D., has been named Fordham’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, announced on Jan. 14. His appointment will begin on July 1, 2019.
Jacobs comes to Fordham from Santa Clara University, a Jesuit university in California, where he has served as provost and vice president for academic affairs since 2011. From 2004 to 2011, he was associate provost and vice president for undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame. Jacobs will replace Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., who died suddenly on July 2.
“In Dr. Jacobs we have gained an innovative and thoughtful leader, and one who is well prepared to lead the faculty during what promises to be a period of great change in academia,” said Father McShane.
“I am deeply impressed by his experience, intellect, and humanity, and am proud to call him a colleague.”
Jacobs said he was drawn to Fordham because the University understands that liberal arts education is about more than transferring knowledge and honing skills. Rather, he said, Fordham aims to develop persons of character and integrity who aspire to lead ethical lives of meaning and purpose.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be joining the Fordham community. I am excited to help the University adapt and innovate its program offerings, explore mutually beneficial partnerships, and launch strategic initiatives aligned with Fordham’s distinctive Jesuit mission,” Jacobs said.
A native of California, Jacobs earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Stanford University in 1988, and his bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and physics from the University of California, Irvine, in 1981 and 1982, respectively.
He first joined the University of Notre Dame in 1988 as an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry; he became a full professor in 2000. His research focused on reactions relevant to semiconductor processing in the microelectronics industry. Among his most notable projects was a yearlong experiment in 2008 that he designed to take place on the International Space Station. The experiment, which recorded how polymeric materials (plastics) degrade under continuous attack by energetic particles in low Earth orbit, was part of an effort to develop inexpensive, lightweight materials for use in next-generation satellites.
In 2002, Jacobs was named U.S. Professor of the Year for Doctoral and Research Universities by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
At Santa Clara, he has led the university’s strategic planning process; helped secure many major fundraising gifts; assisted faculty in launching the school’s first three online degree programs; and provided leadership throughout the design process of several new academic facilities, including a new STEM complex.
He also created Santa Clara’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which supports deans and department chairs in the recruitment of underrepresented faculty and fosters diversity and inclusion in the university’s community and curriculum.
Jacobs’ hiring was the result of an intensive search spearheaded by a 13-member committee that sought input from the University community on who should replace Freedman.
Father McShane also announced that Jonathan Crystal, Ph.D., who assumed the role of interim provost after Freedman’s death, will be promoted to the newly created position of vice provost, the senior member of Jacobs’ staff.