“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 13:11-12)
Robert John Gerald Jacob, affectionately known as Bob. died to this world in his house on Monday, September 21, 2020, surrounded by his wife, children and grandkids.
Bob was born on in 1943 in Brooklyn, NY and grew up in Edgewater Park. He attended King’s College, New York University, C.W. Post College, Rockefeller University, the University of Syracuse and the University of Chicago. His choice of college in Long Island University endeared him to me 😉 , and I remember his hearty laughter when we wet in the University of Kentucky and he heard MY name. He said something clever at the time, along the lines of, “Did they name the college after you!? Oh, I must’ve gone to your cousin’s college!” His New York accent was also something I treasured as it reminded me so much of time I spent in New England meeting people from “The City” visiting.
After completing his PhD, he moved to Lexington in 1978 with Gretchen and their three sons. He was a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Kentucky from 1978-2015, teaching medical and dental students. He also had a strong passion for research, where he mentored an abundance of students with an interest in the field. In his time of research he obtained many historic findings, awards and publications, making sure that his work meant something to the world, and more importantly, to his students.
Anita and I met Bob at First Alliance Church about the same time he and I met on campus, around the middle of 1991. I am not really sure which came first, but I definitely remember that meeting in FAC! Ron Gifford was making some astute point in his excellent manuscript sermon when a voice boomed out at the back of the auditorium, “Teach us, preacher!”
For Anita and I, used to more sedate church meetings, this made us look at each other with wide eyes! Someone yelling at the pastor!? Okay, supportive yelling, but loud enough it reverberated across the room! Eventually we heard Bob’s favorite classic, “Give me Jesus!” in response to something the pastor had said.
After service we met in the tiny foyer and smiled sheepishly at this robust University professor who was unashamed of identifying himself as a follower of Jesus. Our friendship went deepest when he supported Anita during turmoil over her tenure. He proved to be a wise advisor, a valued confidant on the Faculty Senate, and a reliable friend.
Most of all, he unabashedly embraced Jesus Christ and His lordship in his life, unafraid of what others thought of him. As much as anyone I have known, Bob exemplified Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10: “Have no fear of [men, religious leaders, governors, kings], for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” A man without fear.
And so he went to Heaven last Monday, and I cried when I received the news. Not because I felt sorrow for him, but moved with compassion for Gretchen, his children and grandkids and all of us who will miss his laughter, bright smile, wise and scrutinizing eyes. He will be greatly missed until we join him around the Throne of the Lamb.
And so it goes. With each passing of a saint the world gets poorer unless we can find another who will shine Jesus’ light into the darkness; show Jesus’ love to the unlovable; give our lives to honoring the King of all Kings, just as Bob did.
So earth became poorer with Bob’s passing. A light of the world has gone out on this side, but shines even brighter in his real Home. Heaven certainly is richer with Bob’s booming voice calling out to the angels, “Just give me Jesus!”