Bob and Monica Jacoby

The Jacobys help write the future of breast care in Florida

By Mayo Clinic Staff

"A lot of people have had difficult young lives," Bob Jacoby says. "There are a lot of breast cancer patients with fear in their minds. They might be able to conquer that fear, really, if they had some hope."

A visitor to Bob Jacoby's home office will notice the 1952 Royal typewriter. A plaque on the machine reads "Honor Thy Father."

The metal cube with small black and white keys was a brand icon of its time — it's what Ian Fleming chose when bringing "James Bond" to life. But to the former army sergeant and New York ad exec, it's a reminder of his past.

Bob's dad was a salesman for the Royal Typewriter Company. Since childhood, Bob's home has never been without one. As Bob talks about his dad, one can practically hear the echoes of a typewriter being reset for the next line. That hallmark ding at the end of a line, a zip as the roller floats back, and a forward stepping click.

"My father commuted into New York City every day, either by bus or train," Bob says. "It's a horrible ride after a while if you do that for a lifetime."

But his father pressed on, working hard selling as many typewriters as he could to provide for the family.

Growing up, Bob admired his father's grit and perseverance, striving to emulate him through high school, the Army, Princeton University and a job at Shell Oil Company.

At Shell, he quickly established himself as talented and hardworking, but more importantly, it is where he met his future wife, fresh out of secretarial school.

"He was the cutest thing I had ever seen, sitting behind his desk with these great big horned-rimmed glasses," Monica Jacoby says as she sits next to the man she's been married to for over 60 years. She looks at him and smiles, "I fell in love with him just like that."

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Story of a lifetime

With Monica by his side, Bob climbed to the top of his profession in advertising, introducing some of the most successful and widely recognized product campaigns in the industry. But today the couple happily shares the quiet morning routines of a retired couple — coffee, fresh fruit and a daily paper.

Monica grins, "And with 16 grandchildren, including one great-grandchild, there's always a birthday card to write."

Today, the Jacobys enjoy their retirement outside of Jacksonville, Florida, in a town they moved to 25 years ago. In fact, the Jacksonville area reminds them of their childhoods, and Monica is fond of the headlines in their local newspaper, which often convey a hometown charm. She recalls when the Jacksonville Jaguars had a rare win during a losing season. The front page was covered in photographs of fans with their hands in the air. In Jacksonville, for a moment, it seemed like nothing else mattered but that victory.

"Jacksonville is like a small town, so warm and friendly," she says.

The Jacobys try to give back to their community however they can — to area youth programs, like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America (one troop honors the Jacobys by donning a patch that bears their name); supporting local arts (the Jacksonville Symphony plays in the hall that is named in honor of their generosity); and serving as long-standing members of the Mayo Clinic Leadership Council in Florida as ambassadors and advocates of philanthropy.

"Both of us grew up relatively poor," Monica says. "The other day, I thought to myself about it. I just want to do as many good things as I can at this time of my life. So now, we enjoy helping our community, helping people."

Their latest philanthropic endeavor will help thousands. It will even save lives.

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Family, community and beyond

One of the big challenges people with breast conditions face is segmented and, sometimes, incomplete care. For instance, a woman who has an abnormal mammogram result might be shuffled around from one provider to the next, waiting days or weeks for another appointment, another test, the whole time enduring the heart-wrenching anxiety of the unknown.

After receiving a diagnosis, even if benign, a patient often has many more questions — Is it precancerous? Is it something I should worry about? Should I be tested more often? Should I be tested for the HER2 gene that I've heard about?

"A lot of people have had difficult young lives," Bob says. "There are a lot of breast cancer patients with fear in their minds. They might be able to conquer that fear, really, if they had some hope. You always have to figure God's watching over us. I'm not religious, but deep down I feel that there's another power that watches over us and provides you a reason to hope."

The Jacobys have given a leadership-level gift to establish the Mayo Clinic Robert and Monica Jacoby Center for Breast Health, which is part of the national Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center. Sarah A. McLaughlin, M.D., who leads the Mayo Clinic Jacoby Center, says it is designed to promote the highest level of collaboration among all providers, researchers and educators in all disciplines related to breast health — for both men and women.

"It allows for true integration and efficacy of care, as patients can now access breast health experts from virtually every related medical discipline, all in one location," she says. "In one place you can get genetic testing, breast imaging and diagnosis, oncology care, surgery, plastic surgery and after-care support."

Dr. McLaughlin says it's the most comprehensive, multidisciplinary breast health facility in the Southeast region. It boasts more than 50 team members, 11 exam rooms, seven mammography rooms and a dedicated radiology consultation suite.

"This center and its technology allow each of us to provide the very best care, for each patient and each family member," Dr. McLaughlin says. "We worked hard to open this center for a reason — our patients."

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A sequel in the works

Upon meeting Bob and Monica, Dr. McLaughlin sensed in them a warmth and compassion. She says those characteristics embody the spirit of the center, and she is energized by partnering with benefactors.

So is the CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, Gianrico Farrugia, M.D.

"We greatly appreciate the generous gift from the Jacoby family that has made the new center for breast health possible on our Florida campus," Dr. Farrugia says. He is thrilled by the impact the Jacobys will have on people with breast conditions as they seek help at very scary times in their lives.

The Jacobys, too, are grateful for the opportunity to help so many in their new hometown and beyond. They have four daughters and understand how this gift could one day help them and many of their friends and neighbors. It's one of the reasons they focused their gift on Jacksonville.

"You can make a difference here," Monica says. Again you can nearly hear the typewriter reset to the next line — ding, zip, click — as she thinks about the future and softly says, "And we're not done yet."

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