In memory of Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD, DSc

November 16, 2020

portrait of dr frederick jakobiecIt is with heartfelt sadness that we announce that Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD, DSc, passed away peacefully at the age of 78 on November 14, 2020. An international leader in eye pathology and the former Chair of Harvard Ophthalmology and Chief of Mass Eye and Ear Department of Ophthalmology, Dr. Jakobiec made many seminal contributions to the field, as well as our department. 

There is no question that Dr. Jakobiec’s leadership and foresight was a catalyst for growth and reinvigoration within our department, and Mass Eye and Ear wouldn’t be the institution it is today without him. His extraordinary commitment to our institution most recently culminated in an incredibly generous $5.5 million gift—by far the largest from a faculty member or alumnus in Mass Eye and Ear history—creating a lasting legacy that will be felt for generations. 

An Illustrious Career 

Dr. Jakobiec spent the first 20 years of his career in New York City, where he became a leader in patient care, teaching, and research. From 1983 to 1989, he served as Chief of Ophthalmology and Director of Pathology at the Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Hospital and was Professor of Ophthalmology and Pathology at Cornell Medical College/New York Hospital.

In 1989, Dr. Jakobiec was recruited to Boston to be Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass Eye and Ear and Chair of Harvard Ophthalmology, a position which he held until July 2002. During that time, he reinvigorated and grew the faculty, with a particular focus on increasing the number of women. He was also instrumental in bringing the Schepens Eye Research Institute into the Harvard family as an affiliate.

In 2007, Dr. Jakobiec rejoined the department as Director of the David G. Cogan Laboratory of Ophthalmic Pathology, where he resumed his prolific publication efforts and teaching of residents, fellows, and faculty. Dr. Jakobiec was very proud to have trained the department’s next Director of Eye Pathology, Anna Stagner, MD, who joined the faculty in July 2020.

Over the course of his illustrious 52-year career, Dr. Jakobiec published more than 500 peer-reviewed scientific articles and 60 book chapters, and has edited more than 20 volumes devoted to eye tumors and eye pathology. He was also co-editor of The Principles and Practice of Ophthalmology (first edition, 1994), which is considered the gold standard of ophthalmology reference texts. He also received numerous awards for his contributions to the field, including the 1990 Lorenz Zimmerman Lecture and Medal from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), a 1993 AAO Senior Achievement Award, and the 1994 Medical Science Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division Award from the Association of American Publishers. 

Generous Teacher, Mentor, and Friend

dr jakobiec in eye pathology labA dedicated and gifted mentor, Dr. Jakobiec believed that teaching the next generation of ophthalmologists is essential— to both advance the field and to build upon our department’s legacy for excellence. He recognized that even the most experienced clinicians can gain valuable insight from trainees. These beliefs are at the very foundation of our academic mission. 

Some of today’s most distinguished and influential leaders in ophthalmology, including 12 ophthalmology chairs and two medical schools deans, were trained by Dr. Jakobiec. 

A Legacy of Excellence

In 2019, Dr. Jakobiec made the incredibly generous decision to include Mass Eye and Ear in his will, with a gift of $4.5 million. The gift will support the following named endowments: 

  • Frederick and Thaddeus Jakobiec Chair in Ophthalmology
  • Frederick A. Jakobiec Directorship of the David Glendenning Cogan Laboratory of Ophthalmic Pathology 
  • Frederick A. Jakobiec Visiting Professorship, Lectureship, and Medalist in Ophthalmic Diseases
  • Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD, DSc, Resident and Fellow Education and Research Endowment

A lifelong learner and devoted educator, Dr. Jakobiec made an additional bequest of $1 million to support library renovations and an endowment to provide a significantly improved academic setting for the Mass Eye and Ear community to read, research, contemplate, and collaborate. This newly designed physical library space will be known as the Frederick A. Jakobiec, MD, DSc, Education and Information Center and will house the Lucien Howe Library of Ophthalmology, the LeRoy A. Schall Library of Otolaryngology, and the Abraham Pollen Archives. 

Dr. Jakobiec felt that each one of us has a responsibility to help make the world a better place. There is no doubt that he lived up to this ideal. Dr. Jakobiec’s enduring dedication to the department was unparalleled, and his foresight, leadership, and generosity have helped ensure the strength and success of the Department of Ophthalmology for many years to come. We are eternally grateful to him. 

We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Dr. Jakobiec’s family and friends, especially to his brother, Thaddeus. Dr. Jakobiec is predeceased by his parents, Thaddeus John Jakobiec and Beatrice.