Three psychology alums establish fund to honor Professor Rick Jacobs

Rick Jacobs, professor emeritus of psychology, is surrounded by graduate students and colleagues following his final class at Penn State in April 2019. An avid fan of Groucho Marx, Jacobs retired after 40 years at Penn State. Three former students recently created a program fund in Jacobs’ honor. Credit: Penn State PsychologyAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Armed with doctorates in industrial/organizational psychology (I/O psychology) from Penn State, Paula Caligiuri, Dana Born and David Hofmann all went on to prominent careers. Caligiuri is a distinguished professor in international business and strategy at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University. Born served as a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and is now chair of the Senior Executive Fellows Program in Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and is a distinguished moral leadership fellow with the HOW Institute for Society. Hofmann is senior associate dean of academic affairs for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a distinguished professor.

Besides their Penn State doctorates, the three have something else in common: they were all students of Professor Emeritus of Psychology Rick Jacobs, whom they credit with making an extraordinary impact on their lives and careers. Jacobs retired in 2019 after an accomplished 40-year career at Penn State.

To pay tribute to their mentor and friend, Caligiuri, Born and Hofmann created the Professor Rick Jacobs Program Fund for Industrial/Organizational Psychology, a $25,000 endowment to enrich the Department of Psychology by providing support for the professional development of faculty and graduate students in the I/O psychology program.

“You have touched over 150 of us directly, and so many more over the 40 years,” said Born during a surprise Zoom meeting to inform Jacobs about the gift. “When we graduate, it doesn’t go away. You keep us. You continue to mentor and be a friend and be a colleague, and we have all had moments when we still needed to come to you.”

“Think about the 150 students you impacted, and then think about the generation they impacted and the next because of the modeling you provided us,” said Hofmann. “I always tried to work with my own students in the way you worked with me.”

“I truly don’t know where I would be personally or professionally without you,” admitted Caligiuri. “You never had a bias about what students should be. You had the ability to help people see in themselves what they could be, and I think every one of your students could tell a story about how you intervened with resources – whether it was advice, invitations, networking, a call to an editor or a shoulder to cry on.”

“It was that spirit of generosity that made us want to create this fund,” she added. “This fund is a way to carry on your legacy.”

“I was delighted, and not at all surprised, to hear that Rick’s former students created an endowment in his honor,” said Kristin Buss, head of the Department of Psychology and McCourtney Professor in Children, Work, and Families. “Not only do I know Rick as a distinguished and prolific scholar, I know what an amazing mentor he has been in the department and at the University. On behalf of the Department of Psychology, I want to thank Drs. Born, Caligiuri and Hofmann for their generous gift to the I/O program.”

Jacobs said he was completely surprised when he learned about the fund created in his honor.

“This fund is just fantastic, and it will help our program in all sorts of ways,” he said. “Paula and Dana and Dave are all incredibly accomplished professionals, and I’ve never had a shortage of kind words from them.”

Originally planning a career as a clinical psychologist, Jacobs became interested in I/O psychology when he met an I/O psychologist during his master’s program at San Diego State University.

“I realized, ‘This is for me,’” he said. “It was just a great blending of what interested me in terms of statistics and psychology and business.”

Jacobs earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley and joined the Penn State faculty in 1979. He became a leader in his field, both as an academic and a consultant, publishing papers and book chapters, garnering several national awards, and working with private industry, police and fire departments, and civil service commissions.

Admitting that he stays in touch with “a shocking number of my former students,” Jacobs said he stayed at Penn State 40 years because he was surrounded by “great colleagues and great students, plus [State College] was a great place to live.”

Though retired, Jacobs has remained active in his field. He continues to consult and work with students.  

“If I were just coming to Penn State as I did in 1979, I’d probably stay another 40 years,” he concluded. “It’s that good.”

Caligiuri, Born and Hofmann said they hope other I/O psychology alumni will be inspired to contribute to the fund in Jacobs’ honor.

“This is a wave we’re starting that we hope will become the surf going forward,” said Born.

To contribute to the Professor Rick Jacobs Program Fund for Industrial/Organizational Psychology in the College of the Liberal Arts, visit

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated July 29, 2020