Rachel Jacobs, ApprenNet Chief, Dies at 39 in Amtrak Derailment

Rachel Jacobs, the recently-hired chief executive officer of online training startup ApprenNet LLC and co-founder of the urban renewal charity Detroit Nation, has died. She was 39.

She died on the New York-bound Amtrak train that derailed Tuesday in Philadelphia, killing at least 7 people. The New York Times reported her death, citing Michelle Kedem, a friend. Her age was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was counted as missing following the initial recovery of crash victims.

Jacobs, a Columbia Business School graduate, joined Philadelphia-based ApprenNet in March. The company produces Web-based educational video tools and markets them to customers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Kaplan Inc.’s Open College at Kaplan University, and Newark Public Schools in New Jersey, according to an article in Technical.ly, an online technology publication.

A resident of New York, Jacobs commuted twice a week to Philadelphia and planned to move to the city after completing a round of financing for the company and expanding its seven-person staff. ApprenNet was founded in 2011.

Jacobs, a native of a Detroit suburb, helped found Detroit Nation in 2009. The organization brings expatriate residents of the city together with current residents for mentorship and support. In 2013, Detroit Nation organized the first appearance by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 17 years, according to Jacobs’s profile on LinkedIn.com.

Building Network

In 2010, Jacobs co-founded an organization in New York called 635 Mile Road, named after the city’s distance from Detroit. The group, comprised of former Michiganders, sought to direct ideas and resources for improving their hometown.

“Could this thing go global,” she said in a 2010 interview with Time magazine. “Feel the love, Detroit!”

Before joining ApprenNet, Jacobs was vice president at Ascend Learning LLC, a Leawood, Kansas-based educational technology company, where she worked since 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Jacobs grew up in Huntington Woods, Michigan, according to the Time article. Her mother was Gilda Z. Jacobs, Democratic state senator from 2003 to 2011 and a member of Michigan’s House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, according to Marquis Who’s Who. Her father was John Jacobs.

She attended Berkley High School in Berkley, Michigan, according to a profile in Crain’s Detroit Business.

In 1997, Jacobs graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, according to her LinkedIn page. She earned a Master of Business Administration from Columbia Business School in New York in 2002.

Her path to ApprenNet included four years at McGraw-Hill Cos. From 2007 to 2009, she was a director of strategy and planning. From 2009 to 2011, she was a director of education services at McGraw-Hill education, according to LinkedIn.

Jacobs’s survivors include a husband and two-year-old son, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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