After four decades of being a leader in Kelowna’s automotive industry, Ron Jacobsen’s family ensured that others would be able to follow in his footsteps with the largest gift ever to Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus in 2018.
It was in September of that year that Jacobsen’s daughter Muriel, along with his grandchildren Rhonda and Shayne, donated $1 million to the Kelowna Trades Training Complex in honour of their late patriarch.
Thus was born the Ron Jacobsen Pathway to Excellence, a study space housing the recreational vehicle service shop, a spot to relax with some ping pong or foosball, as well as some administrative offices, all connecting the two buildings that make up the trades facilities on campus.
For more than 40 years, Jacobsen was the owner and operator of Jacobsen Pontiac Buick in Kelowna, until his death at the age of 82 in October of 2016. Since the donation was made in his name, the money has been used to help students financially, as well as improve equipment and facilities for those looking to get into the automotive trade.
“My dad always wanted to give back to the community that supported him,” said Rhonda Jacobsen-Lebedoff on the day of the announcement. “As someone who loved and valued the importance of learning and improving, he would be delighted to know his success is supporting future automotive leaders.”
Born in Red Deer, Alberta and the youngest of nine children, Jacobsen moved to Kelowna in 1971 where he started his dealership. Eventually, the company grew to more than 75 employees, adopting the trademark ‘Jacobsen Excellence’.
In giving back to the community, Jacobsen volunteered with the Kelowna Rotary Club and sponsored several sports teams and golf tournaments, as well as the Apple Triathlon.
The Jacobsen family legacy at Okanagan College extends beyond the $1 million gift - aside from other previous donations to the college’s Trades Training Complex, Jacobsen also set up the Jacobsen Pontiac Lou Simonelli Achievement Award in 2009, to recognize one of his longest-serving technicians.