Claire Jacobus, Head of Friends of the Library Is a Friend Indeed of the Princeton Community
I wouldn't have minded growing up to be Louisa May Alcott," says Claire Jacobus
, as she
sits by a table piled high with books.
didn't quite follow in the footsteps of that celebrated author and advocate of opportunities for young women, Mrs. Jacobus
certainly did come away with a love of words and a commitment to making life better for those who are often overlooked by society at large.
Hers has truly been a committed life.Wife, mother, volunteer, friend: Mrs. Jacobus
has invested all of these roles with her
singular energy, optimism, capability, and vision.
And a strong work ethic and basic practicality, she
would add, which she
attributes to firm family influences and early years spent in the midwest.Born in Centerville, Iowa, Claire was the only child of William and Ruby Robinson.
When her father had a massive heart attack at the age of 38, Claire
was four, and the family moved to her grandparents' farm in Princeton, Mo., where Mr. Robinson convalesced.
"In those days, the accepted treatment was total bed rest," explains Mrs. Jacobus
This experience was very influential, she
These lessons were not forgotten in later years, points out Mrs. Jacobus
A big change occurred when Claire
was eight, and the family moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., spending the war years of 1942 through '44 there.Claire
loved school, she
reports, but Pittsburgh was quite a change and presented new challenges for a girl who had been taught at home.
The Robinsons moved again in 1944, this time to Fairfield, Conn., where Claire
spent the remainder of her
"It was a lovely town to grow up in, in many ways a classic American town," she
says."We lived in an old house, built in 1750.I had a very happy childhood there."Claire enjoyed school, especially English literature, grammar, and history, and she participated in various activities, writing for the school newspaper, editing the yearbook, serving on the student council, and acting in school plays.
Several teachers influenced her
adds."I had a wonderful English teacher in high school, Miss Copeland
, and a Latin teacher, Evangeline Garafalo, who was one tough cookie!I loved Latin and took it for four years, but she
made you stand beside your desk when you translated."
Also during those years, Claire
loved to go to New York to the theater, and she
saw some memorable productions.
The life of the mind was celebrated in the Robinson household, and when Claire
was ready for college, she
chose Bryn Mawr
Majoring in English literature, Claire
studied hard, and encountered a number of memorable professors."I remember English Professor Samuel Chew, Joseph Herben, who taught Chaucer, Milton Nahm in philosophy, and a splendid woman, Laurence Stapleton, who taught 17th Century literature."Claire
edited the college newspaper, but studying was her
major focus, she
True love prevailed, however, and Claire
and Dr. Jacobus
were married in 1956.Shortly after, he entered the army, and the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked in basic research at the Army Institute of Research at Walter Reed Hospital.After his discharge two years later, Dr. Jacobus worked in the Civil Service, as head of the Division of Medicinal Chemistry at Walter Reed, developing drugs for malaria.
The Jacobuses lived in Washington until 1970, witnessing the turbulent times of that era, including assassinations, racial riots, war protests, and cultural upheaval.
In addition, they had five children.An only child herself, Mrs. Jacobus
wanted a big family."We chose to have a big family, and I was able to stay home and care for the children."Marget, Claire, William, Laura, and John all attended the Sidwell Friends School in Washington, a school whose philosophy had a deep impact on Mrs. Jacobus.
"Quakers have had a big effect on me because they really believe in consensus, bringing everyone to the table to discuss whatever it is, so you don't start screaming past people."she
During the years in Washington, Mrs. Jacobus
, though a full-time mom, did dip her
toe into the journalistic waters, and free-lanced as a book reviewer for The Washington Post
.Earlier, just after her
had also worked for Holiday magazine in Philadelphia.In 1970, the Jacobus family made the important decision to move to Princeton, N.J. As she explains, "David was offered the job of vice president of basic research for Merck, then headquartered in Rahway.
Where we would live was predicated on what we thought would be the most interesting life.We both felt a university town would offer so much."
It was a decision that would not disappoint.Princeton
was all they hoped it would be."I like so much about Princeton," says Mrs. Jacobus
."I like the articulateness of Princeton.
...Princeton also offered Mrs. Jacobus a myriad of options for volunteer work, beginning in 1970, when she served as a "Pink Lady" at Merwick.
is a remarkable person.She
has so many talents, boundless energy, and makes such an important contribution."
Time and TalentIndeed, Mrs. Jacobus has not hesitated to give her time and talent to numerous organizations, including serving on many boards, such as Community Without Walls, the Princeton Senior Resource Center, the Princeton Adult School, The Friends School, and the Rockingham Association.
In many cases, she
was chair of these boards.She
has helped community organizations, such as the Human Services Commission
, the Strategic Planning Committee for the Medical Center at Princeton
, the Joint Municipal Commission of Consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township
, the Friends
of Princeton University Library, and the Princeton Public Library
"I really like being a volunteer," she
...In 2004, Mrs. Jacobus was honored for her volunteer work, receiving the Mercer County Women of Achievement Award, which cited, in particular, her work with the Princeton Senior Resource Center.She
also received the Leslie "Bud" Vivian Award for Community
Service, given by the Princeton Area Community Foundation
.Established by members of the Princeton Class of 1942, this award recognizes a person who best exemplifies the qualities of the late Mr. Vivian, who was highly respected for his
willing, selfless, and generous support of the Princeton community.
"Receiving the Bud Vivian Award knocked my socks off!"says Mrs. Jacobus
."It was a true surprise, an enormous honor, and meant so much to me.I never thought I would get such an honor."Also in 2004, Mrs. Jacobus became president of the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, a post that is very close to her heart.
"It's a wonderful job and a fabulous library.
Many in Princeton
and beyond are grateful to Mrs. Jacobus
willingness to take on time-consuming tasks and responsibilities.
is very good at what she
does and has definite leadership qualities.
Today, Mrs. Jacobus
remains as busy as ever, balancing library commitments with Planned Parenthood
counseling, and her
responsibilities on various boards and commissions.Very important to her
is Jacobus Pharmaceutical, the company she
husband own in Plainsboro, providing drugs for leprosy, tuberculosis, and malaria.Founded in 1977 by Dr. Jacobus
, the company is associated with non-profit organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, and provides drugs to them.
"It is our life work," says Mrs. Jacobus
also makes time for theater , "I am mad for it!", here and in New York, whenever possible, for the latest performance.An enthusiastic traveler as well, she
husband head for England every year in addition to other distant destinations.
"After New York, London is my favorite city, and we try to go twice a year, taking a week to go to dinner, the theatre, and the book stores.I have as much fun as anyone," she
"I really have had such a rich and privileged life," reflects Mrs. Jacobus
."Parents I loved so much, a wonderful education, plenty to eat, a nice house, warm clothes, a wonderful husband, marvelous children and grandchildren.I am very grateful for the life I have had.And I do believe it is very important to try, at least to try, to understand other people and the kind of life they have.I a