Nancy Jacob (1981-89), ninth dean of the School of Business Administration, becomes the first woman to lead a major American business school. Her administration launches the Executive MBA Program, centers for banking and retail management, and a program to promote economic, ethnic and gender diversity among the study population.
As an undergraduate at the UW, Jacob (BA 1967) worked as a research assistant to Nobel Prize-winning financial economist William Sharpe, eventually co-authoring an early book on the economics of computing. She earned her PhD in financial economics at UC-Irvine and became one of a select few women teaching finance at the university level. In 1978 she became chair of the Department of Finance, Business Economics and Quantitative Methods.
During her tenure as dean, she drives many important initiatives and innovations at the School of Business Administration. Among them the Executive MBA Program, the Center for the Study of Banking and Financial Markets, the nation’s only Center for Retail, Transportation and Distribution Management, the Business Education Opportunity Program (BEOP), and Pacific Northwest Executive, a quarterly magazine focused on the financial, managerial and policy issues of the region’s economy.
After retiring from the UW, Jacobs will found and lead two successful investment firms and continue her nearly 40-year service as a trustee of TIAA-CREF.
Upon receiving the Foster School’s Distinguished Leadership Award in 2014, Jacobs will reflect on the dearth of women in finance at the beginning of her pioneering career, and comment on the ongoing challenges for women in every traditional male-dominated field.
“We make a big deal of the glass ceiling for women executives in their careers,” she will say. “But that’s misleading because life is not a vertical climb. It’s a multidimensional trip. It doesn’t come with an easy button or a fair button. It is what it is. But when one door closes, another opens. You have to be flexible and you have to be willing to deal with adversity.”