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Peter Mortan Ralph Jacobsohn ’50

Peter Mortan Ralph Jacobsohn ’50, July 16, 2012, in Fremont, California. Peter was born in Berlin, Germany, and left the country in 1933, serving as an escort to his brother, Ulrich B. Jacobsohn ’50, and sister Lillian, and guiding them safely into Ethiopia. The family lived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for two years before war broke out. They moved to Thailand, where Peter developed a love of the Thai culture, language, and people. Not yet 20, Peter became a surveyor and a foreman for construction projects on the Bangkok docks. His fluency in several languages led to a position as an interpreter and guide for Allied Headquarters and a ticket to the U.S. after the war. He was “self-schooled and paperless” when he applied for admission to Reed, but his scores on entrance examinations earned him sophomore standing. “Reed was my first study experience bypassing high school. It was also my first getting to know a lot of friends, particularly President Odegard [1945–48], who helped me immeasurably, and Ernie Bonyhadi ’48.” At Reed, Peter pursued water polo, tennis, skiing, bridge, and chess. He launched a lecture program that invited speakers, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, to campus. He studied with A.A. Knowlton [physics 1915–48], intending to major in theoretical physics, but after two years transferred to UC Berkeley to study architecture and environmental design. He earned both a BA and an MA from Berkeley, and worked with the internationally recognized architect Eric Mendelsohn. He also met Nina Belogolovy, a Russian immigrant from Korea who was a graduate student. They were married in 1949 and raised two daughters and a son. Peter was project architect with Bechtel Corporation for a few years, managing large-scale projects for local industry and for the navy, and he taught evening courses at Heald College in San Francisco. He eventually started his own architecture firm in Fremont, California, in 1955. “Fremont is the most gracious city in the world,” he said in an interview in 1966. “I wouldn’t exchange it for any other.” Peter was instrumental in planning, preserving, and beautifying the city, and completed more than 1,000 projects during his career. In his public obituary, we read that his commitment to the community was a hallmark of his life. “Peter designed buildings that reflected his love of the community, its varied ethnicities and cultures of the region.” He served as director of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce for 11 years, and he was a city commissioner. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects and the Historical Architectural Review Board, and an active member of Rotary for over 50 years. He also taught architecture at Ohlone College and sat on its advisory council for interior design. Peter fostered education and the development of young artists. His death at age 88 came as the result of an injury sustained during an elephant ride in Thailand. Survivors include his wife, two daughters, son, nine grandchildren, his brother, and his sister.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2012

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