Adviser inspires students while battling cancer

Share This:

In Mace Jacobson’s office, there’s a box filled with sand — complete with a conch shell, warming pad and poster of a beach scene. 

Instead of taking a trip to the beach, Jacobson can slip her feet into the sand, turn on the warming pad, and listen to the sound of the ocean through the shell. The “portable beach” was built for Jacobson by one of her students and is among the flowers, cards, phone calls and emails sent to her in support. 

Jacobson, an adviser and tutor coordinator for the Dixie State University TRiO program, has been diagnosed with colon cancer. She said the cancer, which has affected her before, “is pretty aggressive,” spreading, and is now requiring her to undergo chemotherapy for the second time. 

“When my family and friends [at DSU] found out my cancer returned, they were nothing but support for me,” Jacobson said.

 A GoFundMe account for Jacobson surpassed it’s goal of $10,000 by over $200 so far. And a fundraiser next month organized by Matthew Jacobson, Mace Jacobson’s son and DSU alumnus, will also help raise money for her medical bills. 

The fundraiser, “Drag Night for Mace,” will feature drag queen and drag king models from southern Utah. The drag night will take place at the FireHouse Bar and Grill April 30 starting at 9 p.m. with a $5 donation required for entry. 

Matthew Jacobson said the money raised from the drag night will also go toward improving Mace Jacobson’s quality of life as she fights the cancer.

 “And quality of life ain’t cheap,” Matthew Jacobson said.

Mace Jacobson said she felt “humbled almost to the stage of it being awkward” about the drag night fundraiser for her. 

“I’m excited about the drag night,” Mace Jacobson said. “I think it’s going to be fun, but it is hard. I’m learning how to accept help, which is something I’m not good at receiving.”

Matthew Jacobson said his mother is constantly looking for ways to help others. In addition to her cancer, Mace Jacobson cared for her other son, Collin, who suffers from severe autism, for many years. She also cared for her husband when he contracted methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, Matthew Jacobson said. 

“She takes care of everyone,” Matthew Jacobson said. “I don’t know anyone else like her who is so willing to help others.”

Donna Walter, a sophomore psychology major from Washington and the architect of the portable beach, said Mace Jacobson helped her transition into college as a non-traditional student and is always looking for ways to help others.  

As an adviser of the TRiO program, Mace Jacobson’s job description includes motivating and supporting non-traditional or disadvantaged students.

“When I first came into (the) TRiO (program), I was hesitant to get close to Mace because I knew she had cancer,” Walter said. “My dad passed away from colon cancer. I told myself to stay away from Mace because I know how painful it is to lose someone you’re close to.”

Walter said Mace Jacobson reached out to her regardless and helped her succeed in her classes by picking a math tutor for her, helping her receive an internship, and win scholarship money. 

“[Mace Jacobson] believed I could do anything,” Walter said. “She helped me believe in myself. I wouldn’t be where I am today in school and in life if it weren’t for Mace.”

Stephanie Farmer, a junior elementary education major from Watsonville, California, said Mace Jacobson has been “instrumental and her biggest cheerleader” while transitioning into college life. 

“I’m so glad people are coming together to donate money and help with fundraising for her,” Farmer said. “It’s hard to see her struggling with the cancer, but she needs to know what kind of person she is. She deserves it all.”   

Walter said when she heard Mace Jacobson’s cancer was returning, she wanted Mace Jacobson to have a party everyday. Making gifts like the portable beach and bringing her flowers and milkshakes from Iceberg, Walter said she is always looking for ways to help Mace Jacobson “have a little party everyday.” 

“I love my students,” Mace Jacobson said. “They’re my little lambs. They’re giving me inspiration in all sorts of ways during this time.”