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Dining hall at ASU honors college named for former Dean Mark Jacobs

Photo of Mark Jacobs in Mark Jacobs Dining Hall.

Barrett Honors College Dean Emeritus Mark Jacobs speaks at the naming of the Mark Jacobs Dining Hall in the honors college's complex on the ASU Tempe campus on Aug. 9. Photo courtesy Barrett, The Honors College

August 11, 2023

It’s been called the spot for the best brain food on Arizona State University's Tempe campus. It’s known as a great place to meet, eat and study. It has a refectory popularly referred to as the “Harry Potter Room.” And the gelato and ice cream served there can’t be beat.

Now, it has a new official name: The Mark Jacobs Dining Hall at Barrett, The Honors College.

The name change was announced at an event Aug. 9 attended by Jacobs, who retired as dean of Barrett Honors College in 2022 after 19 years in the post. His family, university colleagues, and honors college faculty and staff were on hand to celebrate the announcement.

Jacobs was at the helm of the honors college when the Barrett Tempe complex was being developed. He worked closely with architects on the design of the nearly nine-acre complex with residence halls, classrooms, offices, a dining hall, outdoor spaces and other amenities that opened in 2009.

Jacobs was insistent that the dining hall be a place where students, faculty, staff and visitors could congregate, communicate and collaborate over meals. His ideas for a refectory and spaces for small group meetings were incorporated into the design.

“It’s fitting that this space is being named for Mark Jacobs. It’s a space for and of the Barrett and ASU communities. Mark cares very much about Barrett Honors College and the people connected to it, and we all continue to benefit from that care,” Barrett Dean Tara Williams said.

Jacobs said his upbringing in a family where dinnertime was reserved for discussions and debates inspired him to make the dining hall a place for sharing meals and conversations.

“My parents always used dinnertime to discuss our thoughts and ideas. It forced us to defend our ideas, and they listened to our opinions. We learned as much around the dinner table as we learned in the classroom,” Jacobs said, referring to himself and his sister.

“I wanted to create that sort of ambiance here in the Barrett dining hall.”

Jacobs said the dining hall’s physical design, with floor-to-ceiling windows allowing for natural light and a curved wall offsetting the block-shaped adjacent buildings, makes for a comfortable setting.

A grand piano in the center of the hall is available for students to play whenever they want. Noticeably absent are wall-mounted televisions and a built-in sound system that would detract from in-person interaction.

“We wanted the sounds of cutlery tinkling against plates, conversations and the piano, not the sounds of Muzak or CNN,” Jacobs said.

The Harry Potter Room, née refectory, is festooned with gonfalons from all of ASU’s colleges, signifying that Barrett Honors College welcomes students with all majors throughout the university.

“I’m grateful and humbled to have my name associated with this place,” Jacobs said.

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