E. Gardner Jacobs (1901- 1985), who succeeded his father Henry L. Jacobs as president of Bryant College (now University), was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1901, and grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a graduate of Moses Brown School and went to Bryant for his baccalaureate and master’s degree.
Passionate about the college, he served as its vice-president under his father. During his tenure as second in command, he greatly expanded the institution’s Providence campus on the East Side of the city. Purchasing and remodeling two houses to use as dormitories in 1948, he then oversaw the establishment of the Business Management Institute, which was put in place to aid small business entrepreneurs.
After thirty years of service as vice president, he assumed the top post when his father retired in 1961. The elder Jacobs died two years later. During Dr. Jacobs’ term as president, his friend, Earl Tupper, of Tupperware fame, donated 295 acres of land in Smithfield, Rhode Island, where the university is now located. Jacobs then sold the East Side campus to Brown University for $5 million to help fund the building of the new college.
President Jacobs also oversaw Bryant’s national accreditation as a business college. According to William T. O’Hara, who succeeded Jacobs as president, “The college was his entire life,” which was evidenced by his service as chancellor following his retirement from the top post in 1968.
In addition to his work with the college, Dr. Jacobs served as a trustee of the Providence Preservation Society, and also sat on the boards of Butler Hospital, Roger Williams General Hospital, and Blue Cross of Rhode Island. For his tireless efforts on behalf of higher education and service, Dr. E. Gardner Jacobs was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1973, twelve years before his death on October 27, 1985.
Debra A. Mulligan