Ralph Jacobson

December 31, 1931November 1, 2014

Ralph Jacobson, a retired U.S. Air Force major general and former president of Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, died November 1st 2014 at the age of 82 years in Austin, Texas. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1931 and grew up in Bountiful, Utah. He graduated form the U.S. Naval Academy in 1956 with a B.S. in engineering, receiving his pilot’s wings in 1957. He earned an M.S. in Astronautics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1962 and a second M.S. in Business Administration from The George Washington University in 1966.

Jacobson served 32 years in the Air Force. He served as a pilot in Vietnam, an Air Force project officer for the Draper-developed Titan II Inertial Guidance System, and later in a series of space-related positions with NASA and at the Pentagon before capping his military career as director of special projects for the Secretary of the Air Force. He was a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a trustee of the United States Naval Academy Foundation. His military awards include Distinguished Flying Cross and Defense, National Intelligence Community and Air Force Distinguished Service Medals.

During his decade as president and CEO of Draper Labs, Jacobson led the Laboratory through a difficult period of funding challenges. His solutions implemented during his tenure, resulting in Draper rebounding, are still in place today. Jacobson represented Draper on the Fleet Ballistic Missile program’s Steering Task Group. He also served as a member of the Strategic Advisory Group for the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, as well as on a number of panels and subgroups. For those efforts he was awarded the Outstanding Public Service Awards by both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. Jacobson also served on the NASA Advisory Council and the NASA Shuttle-Mir task force. For his service on the Shea Task Force on the Hubble Space Telescope first servicing mission he was awarded the NASA Public Service Medal.

Following his presidency Jacobson served as a consultant for various corporations, most recently Loral Corporation and on the Board of Directors for Fairchild Controls Corporation. He had been a consultant to Boeing Satellite Systems, Booz/Allen/Hamilton, Cymer Corporation, and Northrop Grumman previously. Jacobson was a member of Sandia National Laboratories National Security Advisory Panel and the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee.

After retiring from Draper Labs, he and Mrs. Jacobson, his wife of 58 years, moved from Concord, MA to Park City, UT where they lived for 17 years. They moved from Park City to Austin, Texas in 2013 to be near family. He is survived by his wife, Joan Jacobson, of Austin, Texas and his three children, Betsy Jacobson Klene of Park City, Utah, Matthew Jacobson of Cumberland, Maine and James Jacobson of Austin, Texas. He has eight grandchildren; Brigitte, Jane and Charlie Klene, Steven Henry and Maggie Jacobson, and William, Patrick and Colin Jacobson.

A service for Jacobson is scheduled for Friday, November 21, 2014 in the Naval Academy chapel in Annapolis, Maryland at 10:00AM, the burial is at 11:30AM with a reception following.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial tribute fund has been established with the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation’s Athletic and Scholarship Programs, a group for which he was a trustee. Donations can me mailed to USNA Foundation, 25 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD, 21401 or by calling 410-295-4095 or 800-468-7623. Online tributes can be made at Click ‘Make a Gift’ on right. Fill in amount next to Athletic Excellence, scroll down and check ‘in memory of…’, fill in Ralph Jacobson, class of 1956.


Ralph Jacobson

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