By Abe Loomis
When Amanda Kauff Jacobson ’94 visited Trinity on a tour of colleges with her daughter last October, she was reminded of the breadth of the curriculum, the intimacy of the Trinity community, the availability of professors to undergraduates, and, especially, the sense of place.
“I was reminded of how special the campus is,” says Jacobson, who lives in London. “It’s this exquisite jewel box in the middle of Hartford. For me as a student, it was academically robust, I knew who my professors were, and I really felt like I found my niche.”
Jacobson’s time as a Trinity student has inspired her to become a consistent supporter of her alma mater. She has served as an alumni interviewer, offered career advice to Bantams just starting their professional journeys, and made substantial financial gifts to the college, including participating in the highly successful December 2021 Trinity Fund Challenge.
The daughter of alumnus Michael Kauff, M.D., ’61 and sister of Russell Kauff ’91, Jacobson says her family’s long bond with the college played an important role in her decision to attend.
“When I was growing up, we were often there on autumn weekends, going to football games,” she says, “and I had heard many, many stories about Trinity.”
When it came time to make her own decision about where to attend college, that sense of familiarity won out.
“I looked at a lot of different schools,” Jacobson says, “but ultimately, I really just always felt at home at Trinity, and I decided to carry on the family tradition.”
According to her friend Deb Oxnam Betsch ’94, Jacobson’s love for Trinity started early.
“Amanda is one of my dearest friends thanks to Trinity,” Betsch says. “From the day I met her and her family, her commitment to Trinity has been steadfast. Her belief in the rounded experience that Trinity affords has led her to be a strong and ongoing supporter of the school and all those who have called the Long Walk home.”
As an art history major, Jacobson focused on abstract expressionism. She wrote her senior thesis, advised by Professor of Fine Arts Michael C. FitzGerald, on painters Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Franz Kline. Inspired by a chemistry and art course with Henry DePhillips, now Vernon K. Krieble Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, she also crafted a minor exploring the nexus of science and art. In her junior year, studying art history in Florence, Italy, she met her husband, Blair, who was then an undergraduate at Williams College.
“We were in an Italian class together, and he was the smartest guy in the class and quite a flirt as well,” Jacobson says with a laugh. “We started going to galleries together and fairly quickly became inseparable.”
After graduation, the two moved to New York, and Jacobson began a career in publishing as an editorial assistant at Random House. She then moved to sales and soon was pitching books to big booksellers including the now-defunct Borders and attending events where she met writers and public figures such as Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, and Bill Clinton.
“That was a super experience,” Jacobson says. “Meeting these incredible writers and taking them out to meet my buyers and to events was just really fun.”
After an 11-year career that culminated in her role as director of sales and marketing for Alfred A. Knopf, Jacobson was ready for a change. In 2005, when she and Blair saw an opportunity to move to London, they leaped at it. They have lived there ever since and now reside in the Holland Park neighborhood with their son and daughter.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jacobson hosted a Trinity gathering for President Joanne Berger-Sweeney as well as alumni and friends at her family’s home. She describes a rainy Tuesday night in January, her home aglow with warm light and conversation. About 70 Trinity alumni were present, she says, along with Berger-Sweeney, for whom Jacobson expresses great admiration.
“We all started with four years in Hartford and then set off into the world,” Jacobson says, “and maybe that was part of the energy that night, that we had all chosen to live for one reason or another in London. There’s a lot to bond over there. And I think people are just always happy to get together with fellow Bantams.”
That enduring bond—and the undergraduate experience that fostered it—are among the many reasons Jacobson continues to be dedicated to the college.
“It’s a combination of meeting great people, studying with some incredible faculty, and exposure to a lot of different sorts of people and ideas and topics—the full liberal arts experience—which I think Trinity does so well,” she says. “I want Trinity to be around for a long time.”