Announcements

Alumnus and Life is Good Co-Founder John Jacobs to Provide Special Video Message to UMass Amherst Class of 2020

Entrepreneur Will Be Keynote Speaker When In-Person Commencement Occurs

AMHERST, Mass. – John Jacobs, co-founder of the lifestyle brand Life is Good and member of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Class of 1990, will provide a message of optimism and resilience to the Class of 2020 in a special video as part of the university’s virtual senior celebration May 8 on www.umass.edu. Jacobs will deliver a full address as keynote speaker for the class during an in-person commencement event at a later date.

“Given the extraordinary times we find ourselves in today, I cannot think of a more forward-looking keynote speaker than John Jacobs,” said Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy. “John’s story of optimism, resilience and success is sure to lift the spirits of our graduates and their families who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. I look forward to watching John’s message on May 8, and to hearing him deliver his keynote speech in person when we all gather together on campus.”

The Chief Creative Optimist at Life is Good, Jacobs graduated from UMass Amherst with a degree in English literature and a minor in art. In 1988, while on a cross-country road trip from Los Angeles to Boston, Jacobs and his brother Bert brainstormed about how they could start a business that would let them be creative. A T-shirt company called Jacobs Gallery was born, and the brothers traveled the East Coast in their van, which they coined “The Enterprise,” selling their shirts to college students.

After five years on the road, endless setbacks, and $78 to their names, the Jacobs brothers had a conversation about negativity in the media and how they wanted to create art that inspired people to celebrate all the good in the world. In 1994, they landed on the three simple words “Life is Good.” With their new optimistic message, they sold out of T-shirts at their first street fair in Cambridge, and after three years reached $1 million in sales. Today, Life is Good is a $100 million company that positively impacts over 1 million kids annually through the Life is Good Kids Foundation.

The company is dedicated to spreading the power of optimism, a mission that was inspired by a community of resilient optimists who connected with the three words “life is good” as a way to stay positive in the face of adversity. 

The Jacobs brothers also founded the Life is Good Kids Foundation to which they donate 10 percent of their annual net profits. Through its signature Playmakers Program, the foundation helps more than 1 million children overcome the impact of poverty, violence and illness each year, making their business a fully integrated for-profit/non-profit model. The brothers also host the Life is Good Ping Podcast, interviewing some of the world’s most influential thought leaders about using optimism as a practical way to overcome adversity and lead a fulfilling life, all over a game of ping-pong. Guests have included Ringo Starr, Katie Couric and Scott Avett. 

Additionally, Life is Good will be holding a global virtual commencement celebration for all members of the nation’s Class of 2020 on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 7. UMass Amherst is a partner in the event, which will be hosted by Life is Good’s Chief Executive Optimist Bert Jacobs and feature a commencement address from John Jacobs. The event also features special appearances by musical groups Michael Franti and Spearhead and The Avett Brothers and poet IN-Q.

Since their business is closely tied to rational optimism, John Jacobs is often asked to share his message at a wide range of corporate and thought leader events including Inc. 500, Morgan Stanley, SAP Sapphire, Indeed Interactive, Discover, Bose and more. The business has been featured in Forbes, NPR’s “How I Built This,” CNNMoney, CNBC’s Business Nation, ABC News’ Nightline, NBC’s The Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine and many others. 

Contact: Mary Dettloff, mdettloff@umass.edu, 413-663-0575