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Alan H. Jacobs

Sept. 24, 2010

Dr. Alan H. Jacobs, professor emeritus of anthropology at Western Michigan University, died Sept. 13. He was 80.

Photo of Alan H. Jacobs.Jacobs, one of the world's foremost experts on the semi-nomadic Maasai people of Africa, retired in 1996 after 22-1/2 years of service. He came to WMU in 1974 as chair of anthropology and stepped down from that post in 1978.

Among his many other administrative posts were African Studies Program chair from 1976 to 1979 and resident director of WMU's twinning program at Sunway College in Malaysia from 1990 to 1992.

Jacobs' primary specialty was the pastoral peoples of Africa and their development problems. He also was an expert on Japanese Bonsai and Chinese Penjing and a president of the Bonsai Society of Kalamazoo.

Prior to joining the WMU faculty, Jacobs lived and worked for nine years in Africa, spending six of those years as research director of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Nairobi.

Jacobs was pictured in Life magazine in a 1962 edition that featured its "Red Hot Hundred" people who were destined for greatness in the United States. Others of what the magazine termed the "Take-over Generation" included Edward Albee, Andre Previn, Leontyne Price, Theodore Sorensen and John Updike.

While at WMU, Jacobs consulted for a host of international aid organizations, including the U.S. Agency on International Development and the World Bank. Through USAID he participated in multiple studies and projects in places such as Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania.

He was a fellow of the American Anthropological Association, African Studies Association and Society for Applied Anthropology, as well as an associate of the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the Friends of the National Museums of Kenya.

Jacobs did two years of undergraduate work at WMU, then was accepted to graduate school at the University of Chicago, from which he earned a master's degree in 1953. He earned his doctoral degree from Oxford University in 1966.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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