Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 8, 2012

Arts educator dies at 88

Former president of Interlochen Arts Academy dies


TRAVERSE CITY — Roger E. Jacobi, former president of Interlochen Center for the Arts and a former Rotary Charities trustee, is remembered by many who knew him as a meticulous visionary whose good nature and dry sense of humor helped bring people together.

Jacobi died Sunday in Farmington Hills. He was 88.

A lifelong arts educator and administrator, Jacobi began at Interlochen in 1953 as head of the program office for the National Music Camp, which eventually became the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He was president of the international arts education center for 18 years, taking the helm in 1971, five years after the death of Interlochen founder Joseph Maddy.

"He redefined the place," said Interlochen Archivist Byron Hanson, who was conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra and a music coach during Jacobi's term. "He gave stability and direction at Interlochen at a time when there was confusion and uncertainty."

"Roger was a steady hand at the tiller at the time in its history when Interlochen needed it most," said Edward Downing, whom Jacobi hired as director of the National Music Camp in 1978 and who went on to succeed him as Interlochen Center for the Arts president.

During his tenure, Jacobi presided over the construction of the Dendrinos Chapel/Recital Hall and Corson Auditorium, and helped introduce jazz and a creative writing program to the Center's offerings. He hosted a visit to Interlochen in 1975 by former President Gerald Ford.

"Roger was the consummate workaholic. He was always at the desk, and when he wasn't at the desk he was working somewhere else," Downing said.

"He had great attention to detail, almost to a fault" Hanson said. "He was very, very careful and very conscious about getting it right."

Both men said Jacobi and his wife, Mary Jane, who died in 2011, loved children and were extremely supportive of the students in the Center's care.

"He and Mary Jane ate all their meals on campus. That was important to them, to be around the kids," Downing said.

"With the Jacobis you got both for the price of one," Hanson said. "Mary Jane was more of a first lady than most presidents' wives."

Jacobi earned bachelors and masters degrees in music at the University of Michigan, where he later held several positions including dean of the School of Music.

He's survived by two children, three grandchildren and a great-grandchild. His legacy lives on with the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Camp and Academy scholarships, and the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Citizenship Award given at each Academy graduation to an outstanding senior citizen leader.

Services will be held Saturday at noon at Zion Lutheran Church, in Ferndale. A memorial service will take place on the Interlochen campus in the summer of 2013. Memorial gifts can be directed to the Roger E. and Mary Jane Jacobi Citizenship Award Scholarship Fund, in care of Interlochen Center for the Arts.