Thirty-seven years, 1,924 Fridays, 44,400 doughnuts. Doug Jacobson has spent his entire career at Iowa State University donating delicious doughnuts to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE).
Back in 1982, University Professor Jacobson was pursuing a doctorate in computer engineering at Iowa State. One morning, after playing racquetball with a fellow graduate student, Jacobson and his friend decided to bring some doughnuts with them to Coover Hall before class and inspire a chance to visit with ECpE’s faculty — and that’s where a 37-year-long tradition began.
“Every morning a bunch of faculty would have coffee in the coffee rooms,” Jacobson said. “So we started bringing doughnuts in after racquetball.”
After bringing doughnuts to campus once, they never stopped. At least once a week, Jacobson and his friend ordered doughnuts from a doughnut shop on Ames’ Main Street and enjoyed the doughnuts with ECpE faculty.
Shortly after graduating, Jacobson’s friend moved away from Iowa State to pursue his career. But Jacobson stayed.
“My friend graduated with his master’s and got a real job, but I stayed here and just kept bringing the doughnuts in,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson continued his career as a computer engineering professor while maintaining his doughnut tradition at Iowa State. He met a technician working on campus named Gary Bridges, and Bridges joined Jacobson in his doughnut tradition, as he still does today.
Now, Bridges is retired from his technician position and Iowa State, but he still makes it back to campus every Friday morning to hand out doughnuts with Jacobson. In fact, the two are the first to the doughnut box after one of the two drives the box to campus.
“Gary and I have first choice of doughnuts,” Jacobson said. “My favorite doughnut is the cake doughnut with frosting. Gary likes the maple-frosted doughnuts the best.”
Jacobson and Bridges bring doughnuts almost every Friday of the year, excluding fall break and a couple weeks during winter break. When Jacobson first began his doughnut tradition, he brought the doughnuts to the same place every time. But now, the doughnuts have a route.
“A thing that’s changed is now the doughnuts move. People used to only go into one coffee room a day, but now the doughnuts move to wherever the people are,” Jacobson said. “They start in Durham, then they go to advising, then they come up to the main office.”
Jacobson personally brings doughnuts to Durham Center and Coover Hall in the morning. Always an early bird, he arrives to campus around the break of dawn, typically between 5-5:30 a.m. most days. But on Fridays, he runs a little behind schedule.
“On doughnut day I usually have to come in late because the doughnuts aren’t ready until 6 a.m.,” Jacobson said. “Six o’clock in Durham is a wonderful time.”
When Jacobson heads to Hy-Vee to pick up his Friday doughnuts, the bakery staff is ready for him. Jacobson is always greeted with a “hello” and picks up his box of doughnuts labeled, “Mr. Doug.”
“The doughnuts are there waiting for me,” Jacobson said. “I have to tell them when I won’t be there, or else there will be doughnuts.”
On the rare occasion when Jacobson can’t make a Friday, the doughnuts are always missed.
“The days when the doughnuts don’t show up, I’ll hear about it,” Jacobson said.
When the doughnuts arrive, many faculty and staff in ECpE arrive, too. Jacobson said one of the best parts of his weekly doughnut tradition is chatting with others and hearing stories from faculty or staff members before the work day starts.
“Having doughnuts every Friday is just something kind of fun to do,” Jacobson said. “Different people will stop in, and it’s kind of fun to chat with them for a bit. The doughnuts have always been a way to bring people in and be social.”
And with a variety of doughnuts, there is an option for everyone. From cake doughnuts, to maple, to old fashioned or even blueberry, different colors and shapes of doughnuts are sprinkled throughout the box each week.
According to Jacobson, his tradition won’t be ending soon. As long as he is able, every Friday will see doughnuts making their rounds through ECpE.
“It’s not Friday without the doughnuts,” Jacobson said.