Winter 2003
Volume 7 Number 2

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Giving Words to the Story introduction| Verily, a Servant of the Living Word | The Grass Withers, the Flower Fades; but the Word… | An Inner Light | Remembering



 by Barbara A. Chaapel

G. Robert Jacks
September 23, 1934–June 5, 2002

G. Robert Jacks

G. Robert Jacks outside of Templeton Hall, where he taught and where students often visited his office

G. Robert Jacks, a professor of speech communication at Princeton Theological Seminary for thirty-five years, died suddenly at his Princeton Junction home on Wednesday, June 5, 2002, at the age of 67.

Jacks was an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who joined the Seminary faculty in 1967, became assistant director of speech in 1987, associate professor in 1991, and full professor in 1999, when he was named the Arthur Sarell Rudd Professor of Speech Communication in Ministry. Beloved by students during five decades, he taught narrative preaching, sermon delivery, the sermon as story, drama in worship and education, and writing for the ear. He was always concerned in his teaching with the task of proclaiming the Christian gospel in the clearest, most effective, and most imaginative ways possible, and saw his ministry at Princeton Seminary as instilling a love for studying, reading, and proclaiming the Word of God as an act of devotion.

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, Jacks graduated from DePauw University in 1956 with an A.B. in English, philosophy, and church music. He earned his M.Div. degree at Princeton Seminary in 1959 and his S.T.M. degree at Christian Theological Seminary in 1967. He then went to New York to do doctoral work at Columbia University, and received his Ph.D. in speech and theater arts in 1972.

His dissertation was on the work of Swedish church dramatist Olov Hartman, with whom he studied. He prepared the first English translation of five of Hartman’s plays and mounted the American premier performances of two of them (Counterpoint and After Us) while teaching at Princeton Seminary.

He directed and produced church drama throughout his years at the Seminary, including productions of Under Milk Wood, For the Time Being, The Other Wise Man, A Thurber Carnival, and his own play, verily, verily, verily/MERRILY!, for which he was both author and composer. Also a singer, Jacks loved singing in the Princeton Seminary choirs with his students, and was a soloist with the Princeton Opera Association and in the choir of Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, where his family were members.

He was the author of two books about communication in ministry: Getting the WORD Across: Speech Communication for Pastors and Lay Leaders and Just Say the WORD!: Writing for the Ear, as well as many articles. At the time of his death he was working on a publication with Eerdmans on the Swedish church drama movement, including a retrospective on the two Hartman plays he had produced.

Jacks was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 1959 by the Presbytery of Indianapolis and served as assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Medford, Oregon (1959–61), assistant pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Wyandotte, Michigan (1961–62), and as assistant and then associate pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis (1962–67).

Jacks is survived by his wife, Rosanne; two sons, Daniel, of Princeton, New Jersey, and Stephen, of St. John, the Virgin Islands; a daughter, Elisabeth Jacks Cantrell, of Tolland, Connecticut; a brother, John Thomas, of Raleigh, North Carolina; and four grandchildren, Andrew, Matthew, Elisa, and Marta Cantrell.

A memorial service for Robert Jacks was held on Saturday, June 22 in Miller Chapel.


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