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University of York Mourns the Passing of Friend and Philanthropist Joan Jacobs

Posted on 10 May 2024

The University of York and the broader academic community are mourning the loss of Joan Jacobs, whose passing has left a deep sense of sadness across our community.

Irwin is wearing an honorary graduation gown and cap while Joan is smiling next to him in formal attire

Joan, alongside her husband Dr. Irwin Jacobs, was a notable philanthropist and advocate for the arts, culture, education, and healthcare. Her contributions have left an indelible mark on these fields, both in her hometown of San Diego and internationally.

Joan's impact on the University of York was substantial. In 2019, during a visit to York, Joan and Irwin were celebrated for their generosity and commitment to society. Colleagues fondly recall discussions on her great loves—art, music, and family—as well as her passion for the San Diego Symphony, the La Jolla Playhouse, and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation. During their visit, they reflected on the role culture plays in fostering thriving communities.

Their philanthropic generosity extends to a remarkable donation of $2.5 million to the University of York, establishing the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Scholarship Programme. This programme aims to support students and early career researchers focused on the safety assurance of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous systems. The scholarship brings together talented scholars from various disciplines, addressing critical challenges in AI safety and promoting the ethical deployment of technology.

Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery expressed his gratitude for Joan's and Irwin's support, emphasising the significant impact their donation will have on the future of AI research and development:

"Their extraordinary support enables us to hone the skills of talented new scholars while addressing the pressing challenges that AI and autonomy present."

As the University of York community reflects on Joan's life and contributions, there is a shared commitment to continue her legacy by advancing education, research, and philanthropy for the betterment of society. The University extends its heartfelt condolences to Irwin Jacobs and the Jacobs family during this difficult time.