GIVING WORDS TO THE STORY
G. Robert Jacks
September 23, 1934–June 5, 2002
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.
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
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
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