Les Jacobs, the man beyond the research

Jacobs in his office at Ontario Tech in the nuclear engineering building. Photo credit: Fiona Campbell

With a PhD from Oxford University and numerous roles on public sector advisory boards, Ontario Tech University’s new vice-president, research and innovation, Les Jacobs, has quite the impressive resume.

Online you can read that Les Jacobs, Ontario Tech University’s new vice-president, research and innovation, received the Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Social Science, the highest honour for a Canadian scholar, or that he was a professor at Oxford University at just 23 years old.

What you cannot find online however, is really anything about his private life. Jacobs keeps a line between the private and professional.

But in his office, Jacobs opens up.

As you walk into his upstairs office in the engineering building, there is a bowl of M&M’s sitting on an empty table. His desk is not empty. It is crowded with multiple computer screens and files piled atop one another. Above the cluttered desk are pictures of his four children and his wife.

“I actually met her in the first week at university,” Jacobs shares. They went to Western University together and she has stuck by his side ever since, says Jacobs.

She followed him to England but eventually they both decided to come back to Canada.

“Did he tell you his son is getting married next week?” asks Vivianne Sharpe, senior executive assistant to Jacobs.

Family is very important to Jacobs, who was orphaned at 13-years-old. All of his children are adults now but the pictures above his desk are from many years ago.

“He’s a busy man,” says Sharpe who has worked at the college for more than 20 years.

But Jacobs has a cottage that is the opposite of his busy job, it is quiet and peaceful. He likes to go boating and spend time relaxing inside.

Sharpe describes Jacobs as “wonderful, caring and smart.”

Even though a lot of what he does is collecting and analyzing data, Jacobs likes to know how the numbers affect people, to better help individuals or communities. Jacobs is an international expert in human rights policy, and access to justice, health and human rights.

His research and expertise helps him in his role as vice-president, research and innovation. He spent the majority of his career conducting research and now he oversees research, so Jacobs has an understanding not only of what is needed but also how to accomplish specific goals.

While he is known for his work in data science and research, an unknown fact about Jacobs is that he is a music fan.

“I love Bob Dylan, I have his vinyls and that,” he said.

While Jacobs may keep his personal life under wraps online, he is happy to talk about his love of Bob Dylan and his “wonderful spouse” as he refers to her.

Beyond his impressive resume and busy job, Jacobs is a family man who, unlike Bob Dylan, has known peace and quiet.

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