TRIO program adviser, tutor coordinator remembered by students, family

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According to students and family, Mace Jacobson, TRIO adviser and tutor coordinator, was an inspiring and unique woman who never lost her love for others and her sense of humor throughout her battle with colon cancer.  She died on March 23.

Mace earned her associate’s degree at DSU before returning to the university as a staff member in the registration and admissions offices in 2000. In 2012, she became a TRIO academic adviser and tutor coordinator.

President Richard “Biff” Williams wrote in an email, “Not only did she work tirelessly and take her role of representing the staff seriously, she also shared an infectious joy that she extended to the students she helped.”

Mace’s oldest son, Matthew Jacobson, is the first of her four children. He said what made his mother truly unique is her inability to be judgmental.

“It didn’t matter what your background was, what kind of life you lead today,” Matthew said. “She was always there to support you and love you and be your friend and be your mentor.”

Matthew said as an adviser for TRIO she would “get students from all walks of life.” She was a cheerleader for every student who walked through her door without being asked to do so, he said.

Donna Walter, a senior psychology major from Washington, created a “portable beach” for Mace after the adviser told Walter that her cancer had returned.

“She told me, ‘I don’t think I will ever make it back to the ocean,’ and I said, ‘Oh yes you are,’” Walter said.

That night, Walter went home and made an ocean scene out of a poster board, kitty litter, a towel and ocean sounds.

Walter met Mace through TRIO after struggling in classes as a non-traditional student and not having the confidence in herself to feel good about how she was doing. Walter said she would go into Mace’s office when she was unsure and afraid of failure. Walter said Mace would always tell her she was a good student. Walter owes every award she has received from TRIO to the confidence that Mace gave her, she said.

“It was a [win-win] situation for me when going into her office because I knew if I went in there with any problems or issues she [would] always have an answer for it,” Walter said.

Matthew said his mother was dedicated to inspiring people and motivating her students.

“Her biggest passion was helping other people find their path in life,” Matthew said. “She was always asking us, ‘What would you do if money wasn’t an object?’”

Walter said when she met Mace she had two goals: to finish school and to have an office with windows. Walter now works for the Women’s Resource Center in an office with windows.

“When I first showed up here at [DSU], I had no self-worth or self-esteem,” Walter said. “But she made sure I gained that, and I do have that today because of her.”

After Mace quit, the TRIO advisers kept the light on in her office so Walter could concentrate, she said. Walter said she continued to maintain her GPA because she didn’t want to disappoint Mace.

Walter was able to say goodbye to Mace hours before she passed away. She said she wasn’t there when Mace died because she was taking another student to TRIO.

“I told her what I was doing, [and] that I had to get back to the college so I could take this student to get signed up for TRIO,” Walter said. “She kind of groaned a little bit, and then she released my hand, and I went because I could tell that’s what she wanted me to do.”

Walter said the best aspect about Mace was her unabashed love for other people, unwavering positivity, and her sense of humor, most evident in the pranks she pulled.

Matthew said his most memorable prank was played on his sister and her friend the night they came home from watching the Grunge. Matthew and his mom placed objects in the shower and his sister’s room to make it look like a person was standing in both locations when the light was off, he said.

“They both freaked out at the same time, and apparently neither one knew of the other thing,” Matthew said. “That was a really fun one that we got to do together.”

Beside pranks and helping those around her, Mace loved to decorate her space, Matthew said. Mace also had a fondness for family and “weenie dogs,” Matthew said, despite his mother never having a “weenie dog” she “just liked the idea of them.”

“She was just a weirdo, which is why she was one of my favorite people in the whole world,” Matthew said. “There’s nothing sadder than being ordinary, and my mom was anything but ordinary.”