Business Gators Come Back, Give Back: Art Jacobs

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Every fall, the University of Florida welcomes back its alumni for Homecoming, a celebration of alma mater pride across all generations of Gators. While most alumni return for the single Homecoming weekend, some alumni travel back to campus throughout the year. Art Jacobs and Bruce Brandes are two of these alumni that make a point to come back to campus to engage with two Warrington programs that are important to them – the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center. Read about Jacobs, below, and Brandes’ journeys back to The Swamp and how they’re giving back to their alma mater.

Returning to the University of Florida campus has always been an important part of Art Jacobs’ life. The Warrington College of Business found the perfect way to tie his assistance to a cause close to his heart.

With seven years of military experience and a successful business career, Jacobs (MBA ’75) returns to campus annually for the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. The event provides a rigorous entrepreneurial learning and development opportunity for veterans with service-connected disabilities and those who have uniquely distinguished themselves in the military.

Jacobs (right) as an Air Rescue Pilot in Vietnam.

“I’ve had a very fortunate life,” Jacobs said. “I’ve done well in business. When you look back on your career and realize you’ve been blessed, you should look for opportunities to give back to society.”

Jacobs not only contributes to the program but pays his own way to spend a week on campus with VEP participants. He has been a speaker and mentor for the event, and his presence during the week provides many opportunities outside of the classroom for him to build bonds with veterans pursuing a business career.

“The principles, self-discipline and planning of those who have served in the military doesn’t change,” Jacobs said. “Uniforms change and weapons change, but the fundamental chemistry of the individual doesn’t change. I can build those relationships with VEP students because I am one of them. It allows me to help them apply military experiences to the business world and to make a contribution to both UF and veterans. It was perfect for me.”

Jacobs spent seven years in the military after high school. He spent one year as a Forward Observer in Korea and two years as a Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam, where he was wounded three times. He was also a Special Forces (Green Beret) Aviation Officer and NATO Operations & Intelligence Officer.

Jacobs at his UF MBA graduation in 1975.

In his seven years, Jacobs’ military decorations include the Silver Star for Gallantry in Action, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Soldiers Medal for Heroism, 2 Bronze Stars, 3 Purple Hearts, 28 Air Medals (2 for Valor), 3 Army Commendation Medals (2 for Valor), the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Korean Defense Service Medal. He currently serves as the President of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, which has more than 16,000 members worldwide. He is also a USO Volunteer and has traveled to 84 countries with a goal of reaching 100.

When Jacobs was discharged from the military, his future was uncertain. He had the GI Bill on his side to partially pay for college, but he didn’t know which industry he wanted to pursue.

He enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1974. As an undergraduate, Jacobs learned about the University of Florida MBA program because of a fraternity brother’s decision to attend UF. With one year left on his GI Bill, he applied for and enrolled in the program.

“I learned a lot while earning my MBA,” Jacobs said. “I’ll always remember that year in Gainesville. To me, I gained as much knowledge in one year getting my MBA than I did in my entire undergraduate degree at Embry-Riddle. Combined with my military background, when I entered the civilian job market, I was able to advance well ahead of my contemporaries.”

Jacobs graduating from flight school in 1967.

After graduating from UF with an MBA, Jacobs accepted a sales position with Wallace Computer Services. He was soon promoted to start the company’s marketing department and later moved into running all sales management training at their corporate headquarters in Chicago. After being promoted to a general manager position, Jacobs realized he missed the sales training field and accepted the position of Vice President of Sales at a corporate training and consulting company in 1981, being promoted to Executive Vice President along the way.

In 1990, he co-founded Target Marketing Systems in Atlanta, Georgia. The company grew rapidly and was sold in 1999.

“It was neat not to have to work anymore, but I enjoyed doing what I was doing as a consultant and missed the competitive action,” Jacobs said.

After his two-year non-compete clause ended, Jacobs had a list of ideas that could improve the technology of his proprietary consulting techniques.

In 2001, he used that knowledge and expertise to start his own company – Valkyrie Consulting, which he is proud to say is a “Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business” operating internationally.