- Rodger B. Jensen
Rodger B. Jensen
California State University, Fresno
With deep roots in the San Joaquin Valley farmland, Rodger B. and Margaret Jensen have lived extraordinary lives, earning the respect of all who know them. Margaret's parents were pioneers in developing Fresno's fig industry in the Fig Garden area. Rodger in turn coaxed high value tree crops from dry farmland after returning from World War II.
Mr. Jensen served in the Air Force from 1941-46 and was a B-29 pilot in the South Pacific. He was in the cockpit of the "Horrible Monster" when it completed WWII's final mission, a bombing run on an oil refinery in northern Japan. The story was classified for 40 years but it is now documented by one of his former crewmates, Jim Smith, who wrote The Last Mission. Mr. Jensen is described by his crew as a gifted man of uncommon quality and character, an inspiration. Many in our university community agree.
After returning to Fresno, he went into business with Hans Sumpf and formed S & J Ranch, on which they planted oranges and olives in Madera County. S & J Ranch, now owned by Paramount Citrus, was the state's largest olive grower and is credited with developing the pistachio industry in Madera. Mr. Jensen continues to farm oranges and olives under his company, San Pablo Properties.
Mrs. Jensen loves Fresno: "I have yet to find another place I'd rather live." She and Mr. Jensen have greatly enhanced the area's historical, cultural and philanthropic life for a combined 90 years. They met at Fresno State and will celebrate 68 years of marriage this December.
Because of his devoted service to California agriculture and unwavering commitment to his community, Mr. Jensen was honored by Ag One in 1999 as the seventh Community Salute honoree. This particular salute celebrated the 20-year existence of Ag One. In 1979, Mr. Jensen, along with several faculty, alumni and friends of the college, had a million-dollar idea - to start a foundation that would benefit, promote and support the agricultural college and its programs. The supporters set out to raise $1 million in endowed scholarships. Today, that fund is nearly $14 million.
In recognition of their devoted service to California agriculture and to bettering their community, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University, Fresno are proud to confer on Rodger B. Jensen and Margaret Jensen the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.