Carl Jacobsen, Board Member
Businessman, Community Activist, Teacher
Carl Jacobsen was born on December 22, 1946, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where his father had immigrated from Norway and his mother from Scotland. When he was sixteen, he lost his sight over a four-month period due to Lieber’s Syndrome. Although it would be some time before he found the NFB, Carl says he employed Federation philosophy in his approach to his blindness from the day he learned his diagnosis.
He transferred from Brooklyn Tech to Erasmus Hall High School because that's where the resource room was located. At Erasmus he met two adults who would have a positive influence on his life: his resource teacher, Sam Ellis, and his orientation and mobility instructor, Ed Towns. Carl tells the story of how Towns, now a former member of Congress, gave him a dry cleaning claim ticket and some cash and told him to pick up his suit. When Carl asked where the dry cleaner was located, Towns responded that, since he was such a wise guy, he could figure it out for himself. While at Erasmus, Carl also met Sally Rupp, one of the volunteer readers in the resource room, whom he would later marry. After graduation from high school Carl attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, for two years while Sally attended nursing school in Brooklyn. They decided the separation was too stressful, however, so Carl left school to marry Sally.
Soon he and Sally began their family with son Bradley and daughter Christine, born in their first five years of marriage. Later, in 1991, they adopted their son Andrew from Korea. While the older children were growing up, Carl returned to school and finished his bachelor's degree at Hunter College in New York City. He also attended Union Seminary for three years but decided not to seek ordination.
Carl attended his first NFB national convention in 1989 and has missed only one since, the year his wife Sally was critically ill. In the fall of 1989 he was elected second vice president of the New York affiliate. In 1991 he was elected president of the New York City Chapter, an office he held until 2005. Later that year he was elected first vice president of the state affiliate and subsequently elected affiliate president in 1997, a position he continues to hold. Carl also served on the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Merchants until July of 2006.
Throughout his life Carl has pursued various careers, including factory management and business enterprise management. He says his favorite work is teaching. Though he has never taught school, in addition to training entrants into the Randolph-Sheppard Program, he worked with blind children and teens on cane travel and other blindness skills as well as on attitudes about blindness. He also gives presentations to parents and educators of blind children on the truth about blindness the Federation way. Throughout the 1970s and 80s Carl was instrumental in establishing several programs for preschool children through local churches.
Carl was elected to the NFB board of directors in 2004. His daughter Christine presented him with twin grandchildren, Jason and Caitlin. His wife Sally died in February 2002. His son Brad and daughter-in-law Maggy presented him with another grandson, Gunnar Albizu, who was born in February of 2013. On May 20, 2006, Carl married Cantor Dr. Mindy Fliegelman. Together they continue to work for the independence of blind people in New York and across the country.
While he has received many awards and rewards, Carl says the greatest of them all is the victories both large and small which he and others achieve through the Federation. As long as the Lord gives them strength and breath, Carl and Mindy will work to advance the cause of the NFB.