UW News

March 29, 2022

UW announces John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Deanship in the College of Built Environments

building interior

The University of Washington today announced the establishment of the John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Deanship in the College of Built Environments.University of Washington

The University of Washington today announced the establishment of the John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Deanship in the College of Built Environments, strengthening the school’s vision of a more just and beautiful world for all.

The deanship from Seattle real estate icons and founders of Windermere Real Estate Co. provides the financial resources that expand the college’s ability to solve complex problems at the nexus of the constructed and natural worlds that have profound impacts on humanity.


John and Rosalind Jacobi, seen here at a pre-COVID Foster School function, have created a namesake deanship in the College of Built Environments.University of Washington

“This visionary support for leadership of the College of Built Environments will greatly enhance teaching, learning and innovation in service of creating access to livable spaces for all. We are so grateful to the Jacobi family for investing in justice and equity through this forward-looking deanship,” said UW President Ana Mari Cauce.

By establishing the deanship, the Jacobi family broadens their pledge originally announced in 2016. The result provides the College of Built Environments with endowed funds that generate close to $300,000 annually, which the dean will use to lead the college in its work to create a more equitable built world.

The College of Built Environments is home to five departments: Architecture, Construction Management, Landscape Architecture, Real Estate, and Urban Design and Planning. By creating future leaders in these fields, the UW can influence the trajectories of climate change, social justice and human health.


Renee ChengNii Okaidja Photography

“I believe students are the heart of our college,” said Renée Cheng, the dean of the college since 2019 who will now serve as the inaugural Jacobi Family Endowed Dean. “I’m excited to use the John and Rosalind Jacobi Family Endowed Deanship to build on the college’s success and expand access to integrated student advising, mentoring and internship programs across the college.”

A deanship for the College of Built Environments connects the Jacobi family’s passion for education and desire to address urgent issues facing society, starting with the conceptual threads of home and community, with their commitment to diversity within all the related fields. Through the establishment of this endowed deanship, the Jacobi family aims to support academic leaders who share their values and can orchestrate action and positive change.

“Improving the ways that built environments are conceived, designed and constructed is essential to a better future for everyone,” Cheng said. “With committed partners and supporters like John and Rosalind Jacobi, the college will be more nimble, more leading-edge and have an even greater impact on our students and faculty, in practice and in our community. This endowed deanship reflects a shared commitment by the Jacobi family and all of our faculty and staff to nurture and challenge current and future generations of students.”

The Jacobi family has an extensive history of supporting the UW, beginning in 1987 with the creation of the Windermere Cup, the signature spring rowing regatta, and extending to endowed scholarships in men’s and women’s crew, and many gifts to other UW Intercollegiate Athletics programs. The Jacobis’ generosity has supported academic programs in the School of Art +Art History + Design; the College of Education; UW Medicine; the School of Environmental and Forest Science; the Department of Communication; and more. Most recently, their wish to help students led to the launch in 2021 of the Aspire program in the College of Built Environments, which focuses on increasing diversity within the real estate profession, and on the long-term goal of increasing individual prosperity by making home ownership accessible to more people.

“As a result of Dean Cheng’s ingenuity and perseverance, we became very interested and thus committed to working with programs within the College of Built Environments that will promote different aspects of education that students might have never been exposed to,” John and Rosalind Jacobi said in a joint statement. “In our opinion, the Deanship will go a long way in helping students learn about different disciplines.”

The Deanship also is a way to honor the prior generation, John and Rosalind’s parents, who attended UW during the Great Depression. Rosalind’s mother spent 40 years as an educator, and John’s father became an advertising executive and taught courses at the UW.

“We only wish that our parents were alive to experience this involvement with us,” the Jacobis said.

John Jacobi grew up in the shadow of the UW in Seattle’s Roosevelt neighborhood, and in addition to John and Rosalind’s parents, both his wife and their children also are alumni. Although he began his studies at the UW more than six decades ago, his academic career was delayed by a stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, marriage, and a need to feed six children. He left school a few credit hours short of graduation. Sixty-one years later, he returned to finish his course work and earned a degree from the UW Foster School of Business in 2020.

Started by John Jacobi in Seattle’s Windermere neighborhood in the early 1970s, today more than 7,000 Windermere Real Estate Co. agents work out of 300 offices in a network that spans much of the western U.S. and into Mexico. It is one of the largest real estate brands in the country.

The College of Built Environments is at the forefront of a global discourse increasingly focused on the process of urbanization, globalization and sustainable development. The College’s work has immediate and tangible impacts in the physical world and implications for urban systems, human health, environmental resilience, social equity and economic vitality.

For more information about the College of Built Environments, visit this page.