Who is Calvin Jensen?
While Jensen has been a part of the community for the majority of his life, few know him as Calvin. Most know him as “Chico,” and Jensen’s reputation in the community is a demonstration of hands-on, people first leadership – whether that is in his role at Wood & Conn or during his time as a member of the Redwood Falls board of education.
Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series introducing the 2012 inductees into the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame. Who is Calvin Jensen? While Jensen has been a part of the community for the majority of his life, few know him as Calvin. Most know him as “Chico,” and Jensen’s reputation in the community is a demonstration of hands-on, people first leadership – whether that is in his role at Wood & Conn or during his time as a member of the Redwood Falls board of education. Born in Redwood Falls, Jensen attended and graduated from the Redwood Falls school system (Class of 1961), and with the exception of a stint in college and the military, Jensen has been part of Redwood Falls. As a student in the local high school, Jensen was involved in FFA under the tutelage of Ben Broberg, which would be a big influence on his 30-year career in farming. “I?went to the University of Minnesota ag school for a couple of years and then went home to the farm,”?said Jensen. “By the fall, I was at Fort Jackson, S.C.” In the Spring 1965, Jensen came home. “My dad got sick and I took over in 1965,” said Jensen. Jensen said farming was always the plan, and during those farming years he and his family were involved in a variety of things, including the local 4-H program. The Jensens were long-time members of the Four-Leaf Clovers club, and Jensen became a club leader and spend many years serving as the livestock superintendent at the county fair. In 1966, Jensen married Sandy (Balko). “We were in the same 4-H club and grew up about four miles form each other,”?said Jensen. Their son, Jim, and his family also live in Redwood Falls, and Jensen has grandchildren who are attending the local school. Jensen’s involvement in school went to the next level in the 80s when he first ran and was elected to the school board. “My neighbor Bud Willshire came to me and encouraged me to run, because he was getting off,”?he said. Jensen said fortunately he was elected, and he spent the next nine years serving the community as a member of the board. “I?really enjoyed that,”?he said. As a hand-on kind of guy, Jensen said he would often spend time at the school eating lunch with the students or just walking the halls, but he stressed he was not there looking for problems but only to be sure he knew what was going on. “I?wanted to be a friendly, familiar face,”?Jensen said. It was during his time on the board when the school began the process of building the new school. Although it was controversial at the time, Jensen said, as he looks at the facility today he is glad the decision was made in the 80s to put up the new facility. “That is a fantastic facility,”?he said. While he was in school, Jensen’s son Jim got involved as a spotter for the gymnastics team, and when he graduated dad took over the role helping Polly Bowen until someone else could come in to help. He ultimately spent 10-plus years working with the program, including driving bus to away meets. As a member of the Cardinal basketball team as a student, including being a member of the first team to ever win 20 games and the District 10 title for the school, Jensen was familiar enough with the port that he could serve as an announcer for games. Jensen, who announces gymnastics and basketball games still today said it is really something he likes to do. “It’s the best seat in the house,”?he said. In 1995, Jensen was approached by Dave Wood with a job proposition. After hearing about it and thinking it over for a few months, Jensen took the job. “I have never had to go to work since I?started there in 1995,”?he said. “I?can’t wait to go back on Monday.” Jensen admitted he never would have dreamed about being a member of the Redwood Valley Hall of Fame, adding he knows there are plenty of others who could be in this spot. “I?keep asking ‘why me,’” he said. Jensen said he also spent 19 years as a prom driver, served for several years on the AAA board of directors and today serves on the hospital and county planning commissions. He also spent several years as a member of the National Guard. Jensen said he likes to stay busy and enjoys being around people. By the way, there is a great story surrounding the origin of how he became “Chico,” but that is a story one will have to ask him about.