NYC mourners laud Amtrak victim Rachel Jacobs

Detroit News and wire services

New York — Friends of a Metro Detroit native, educational-software executive and charity founder killed in the Amtrak train crash in Philadelphia said they have learned from her life as they mourned her death Saturday.

Hundreds of people packed a memorial service in New York for Rachel Jacobs. The 39-year-old Huntington Woods native was among eight people killed when the speeding train derailed as it rounded a 50-mph Philadelphia curve at about 106 mph.

"She was really seen as a beacon of light," mourner Brett Leitner said as he left the service. "She touched a remarkable amount of people. It's a deeply felt loss."

In Michigan, a funeral will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at the Ira Kaufman Chapel, 18325 Nine Mile Rd., in Southfield. Interment will be at Machpelah Cemetery in Ferndale.

Jacobs was on her way home to Manhattan from her job as CEO of the Philadelphia educational software startup ApprenNet, where she started working just in March. She was married, with a 2-year-old son.

A graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia Business School, she'd previously worked at another education-technology firm, Ascend Learning, and led the expansion of McGraw-Hill's career-learning business into China, India and the Middle East.

Jacobs, whose mother is a former Michigan state senator Gail Z. Jacobs, also started Detroit Nation, a nonprofit that engages former Detroit residents in helping economic development and cultural innovation there. Through the organization, Jacobs helped arrange the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's first Carnegie Hall concert in 17 years.

Friends said they were inspired by her work to help communities.

"Look what she did. Look what she created," former neighbor Ellen Bates-Brackett said as she left the memorial. "I go away thinking and recommitting myself to a more meaningful life."

The family suggest that those wishing to honor Jacobs can make a contribution to the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Rachel Jacobs Detroit Nation, 600 Renaissance Center Suite 1740, Detroit, MI 48243 or visit