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On October 13, the United States Navy celebrates its 248th birthday. In honor of the milestone, UofL’s Center for Military-Connected Students introduces us to Navy veteran Harry Jacobsen-Beyer, a lifelong learner who studies Spanish at UofL through the state’s Donovan Fellowship program. 

Since 2010, U.S. Navy veteran and lifelong learner Harry Jacobson-Beyer, of Louisville, has enjoyed studying Spanish as a Donovan Scholar at the University of Louisville.

Harry Jacobson-Beyer

The Donovan Fellowship, offered by the state, enables senior citizens 65 years or older to take a select number of classes for free at any state-supported institution in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Jacobson-Beyer, 78, served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1967. After boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Station in Chicago, he began studying electricity as a prelude to becoming an electronics technician. Several weeks later, he realized electronics technician was not the path he wished to travel.

Instead, Jacobson-Beyer became a Bosun’s Mate, also known as a Boatswain’s Mate, whose responsibilities include the upkeep of the ship’s deck and hull. The U.S. Navy calls Boatswain’s Mates “the heart of every ship.”

In early 1964, he participated in a goodwill mission to Africa aboard the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard. As the Vietnam War escalated, the USS Bon Homme Richard was sent to the Philippines to load bombs and then set sail for the South China Sea. As a Bosun’s Mate 3rd Class, Jacobson-Beyer was part of the crew that transferred fuel, food and ammunition from supply ships while at sea. He was discharged from the U.S. Navy in June 1967.

After separating from the Navy, he completed a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from the University of Kentucky in 1972. After graduation, he enrolled in the Teacher Corps, and in 1974 he received a master’s degree in education from UK. In 1979, he earned his second graduate degree, a master’s in library science, from Spalding University in Louisville.

Jacobson-Beyer’s interest in Spanish started in 2004 when he started studying at a local private language school. Shortly after he took Spanish classes at Jefferson Community and Technical College. Then he and his wife, Sherry, traveled to Central America, South America and Spain where they enrolled in language schools.

In 2010, a friend told them about the Donovan Fellowship and since then, he has been taking advantage of the opportunities the scholarships offer.

One of Jacobson-Beyer’s favorite things about taking classes at UofL are his interactions with the “focused and goal-oriented” students in his classes. Additionally, he praised the Spanish department saying, “everyone in the Spanish department is exemplary, helpful and encouraging.”

UofL honors and celebrates Jacobson-Beyer’s service in the U.S. Navy and is proud to recognize the 248th birthday of the U.S. Navy on October 13, 2023.