BJU School of Education faculty members Don and Tammie Jacobs both acknowledge they traveled an interesting path to get back to their alma mater, never thinking that God would lead them to the positions they now hold.
Don Jacobs met and got to know his future wife, Tammie Thorsell, through the family-style dinners BJU used to have. They were seated at the same table and Jacobs said, “We spent more time talking than eating.” After realizing they had much in common and that they very much enjoyed each other, they decided to date.
At the time she met Jacobs, Thorsell was an education major and he was a Bible major. Originally, Thorsell thought she would perhaps teach for a few years and then focus on being a stay-at-home mom and pastor’s wife. However, as they both continued to work through their degrees, the Lord began to lead them in a different direction than either had expected.
During his time at BJU, Jacobs worked with Neighborhood Bible Time. Jacobs said through that ministry, he realized he enjoyed working with children, and the Lord put it on his heart that experience in education would be helpful to acquire. At Christmas break of his senior year, Jacobs changed his major from Bible to elementary education.
Thorsell graduated and was able to get experience in the Greenville County school system, something she said she realizes was a blessing from God as it gave her the experience to later help her practicum students and teacher candidates at BJU who go out into the Greenville County schools for their teaching hours.
After graduating, marrying and each getting their master’s degrees from BJU, the Jacobs spent some time in Colorado where they worked in a Christian school. God blessed them with their first two children, Donny and Allen. After a few years, they returned to BJU for Jacobs to work as assistant principal at Bob Jones Elementary School and for his wife to work at BJU Press.
In the following years, the Lord gave them their daughter, Catherine, and opened up many career changes for them at BJU while they both pursued and gained their doctorates. Don Jacobs shifted from assistant principal to principal at BJES before teaching in the School of Education in 1998. In 2005, Tammie Jacobs went from working at BJU Press to teaching at the University.
Jacobs said, “We just wanted to serve the Lord, and we wanted to find the best place we thought we could do that.” Though the Jacobs both felt the call to ministry and to Christian education, they said the Lord changed what that looked like for them several times through their careers and in their family.
The Jacobs have been through much loss as both of their sons passed away—Donny in 2012 and Allen in 2016. “Those deaths have been very difficult for us and difficult for our family. God again has been very good to us,” Jacobs said.
However, the Jacobs continue to be joyful as they know their sons are in Heaven. BJU now has a nursing scholarship set up in memory of Donny as he graduated from the nursing program.
The University also set up a criminal justice scholarship in memory of Allen because he was a Greenville County police officer killed in active duty. Since then, BJU has held the annual Allen Jacobs Memorial Prayer Breakfast honoring police officers in Greenville County.
Though neither of them foresaw the loss of their sons and they never planned to work at BJU, the Jacobs point to God’s gracious leading throughout their lives and acknowledge His goodness in bringing them to their current positions.