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In Memoriam: Brian Jacobson, A Colleague, Father, Friend and Innovative Agronomist

June 6, 2016


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Brian Jacobson
October 7, 1955 – March 3, 2016

Brian Jacobson, Principal Agronomist, a cherished friend and colleague, passed away on March 3, 2016, due to complications associated with pancreatic cancer. Brian had a distinguished professional career throughout his working life and Waterborne was very fortunate to have him as part of our team for over 20 years. Brian built a solid group of young scientists in our Missouri office (Alex Gibbs, Jacob Mitchell, Shannon Huddleston) and elsewhere in the company who he mentored and trained to manage FIFRA field studies with the same competency and professionalism that he displayed his entire career. Brian has long been considered by many in the industry to be the top field scientist in the United States due to his extensive experience, creative mind and easy-going style.

Brian performed hundreds of environmental fate studies in his career throughout North America, addressing terrestrial and aquatic field dissipation, volatility, bioaccumulation, foliar wash-off, surface water runoff and dispersion in lakes or irrigation canals, and, more recently, pollen and nectar studies related to pollinator concerns. There were very few field study types that Brian did not have first-hand experience performing and this allowed him to work effectively with clients and colleagues alike to brainstorm approaches to address a wide variety of regulatory concerns. Brian was highly regarded by his peers and always a welcome sight at the National Association of Independent Crop Consultants (NAICC) meetings he attended each year. Prior to his passing, Brian was very touched by the outpouring of care, admiration and affection that was expressed by his professional friends and colleagues in notes and letters sent to him once informed of his illness.

Below are some of the kind words and notes about Brian that were provided to Waterborne:

“I started working with Brian in the early 1990s while he was at ABC [Laboratories] and then of course during his long career at Waterborne. I always considered Brian a trusted colleague and collaborator, not simply a contract research scientist, and I know this feeling was shared by everyone at my [crop protection chemical] company.”

“Brian had a big impact on my life even though we have not spent much time together in the last 15 years. Any time I saw him or worked with him it was like the old days. He was a valued friend and respected colleague.”

“Brian was always careful about what he said. I rarely heard him speak ill of others or of competitors. He was a guy who often thought silence was sometimes the best answer, plus I usually did enough talking for the both of us!”

“[After working with Brian at ABC Laboratories] I left to work for USDA/SCS in a remote area of NW Missouri. After a year there, one Wednesday morning as I was preparing to leave home for work, my phone rang – it was Brian – he asked me if I wanted to come back to work with him. Of course I did. This was a happy day for me. I will never forget that phone call that morning with Brian Jacobson on the other end of the line. For the next seven years I worked alongside Brian. He was the team leader for the Field Studies group. We experienced a lot together. Some of the best years of my life.”

“Brian was the best all-around field scientist I’ve worked with in my 25+ year career. He was a superb technical resource for us at our [crop protection chemical] company over the years. We always wished there were more Brian’s out there.”

“The essence of Brian seemed to be illuminated in the compression of crisis. Under these conditions, he most often did the opposite of what is natural – he remained calm, kept his sense of humor, and looked for solutions. It was one of his virtues I admired a lot. When things looked bad – Brian had a way of searching for solutions – and as far as I can recall, always managed to pull it off.”

“Brian was easy going and a pleasure to work with, always reliable, had an incredible work ethic, and I never lost any sleep over the conduct of a study when Brian was providing critical oversight. I owe a lot of my success to Brian’s quality work.”

“Here is what I remember – he was a great guy to have on your side in stressful situations. I remember laughing a lot when working with Brian. He would laugh rather than get angry. He would find a way to mix in some fun with work – the trips to CA – staying over many times with his family to visit Yosemite, or deep sea fishing with his father, hanging out with his parents and sisters, or making a side trip up to Mt. St. Helens. He was a great friend and colleague. I am grateful for the time I had with Brian – as I know so many people are.”

“I am not a painter, with a brush or with words – but if I could paint a portrait of Brian – it would include his family, his farm and cattle, easy smile and laughter, good times no matter what, trout fishing with friends in south Missouri, Golden Retrievers, early morning risings for hunting — his work and commitment to doing his best and his ability to be happy and positive especially when the going got tough. I cannot think of one person who did not like Brian. He was a respected colleague and valued friend. I will miss him. I know many people who will miss him.”

Brian was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 7, 1955, to Mary and Richard Jacobson. His father was an engineer with McDonnell Douglas. Growing up he attended many St. Louis Cardinals’ games and developed a life-long passion for baseball and his beloved Red Birds. In fact, Brian had an uncle who pitched for the Cardinals once upon a time. He said he loved going to the games at old Busch Stadium but hated it when his uncle didn’t pitch his best and the fans would let him know it!

Brian enrolled at the University of Missouri in 1973 and eventually got two degrees from Mizzou – a BS in agronomy and a MS in Weed Science. More importantly, he met Dana, the love of his life, and they were married in 1981 in Spring, Texas. Brian and Dana had two children, Andy, an engineer who works in Waterborne’s Champaign, IL, office and Samantha, who is a pediatrician in residency in Kansas City, MO.

We at Waterborne were privileged to have known Brian as a friend and colleague for well over 20 years. He is deeply missed.