Dean puts life on hold to serve country

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

Jerry Jorgensen, dean of the College of Arts and Science, won’t be around this year to greet new students to SDSU and welcome old students back. He has left the university behind to fulfill his military duty.

A colonel in the Army Reserve, Jorgensen reported to duty July 22 at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as the deputy director of strategic communications.

“Basically, I support the director (of strategic communications) who has oversight on various communication projects to both internal and external audiences, including national advertising, strategic outreach, Web communication and legislative inquiries and strategic messaging,” he said.

Jorgensen, a 1978 SDSU graduate, has spent 26 years in the military. He spent 12 years in the South Dakota National Guard and 14 years in the Army Reserve.

“I have been a tactical signal staff officer, operations officer, battalion commander and military instructor,” he said.

At first, Jorgensen was nervous about his deployment, but now he is ready to tackle any situation that comes his way.

“I had a little apprehension initially,” Jorgensen said. “However, there’s a side of me that is also looking forward to actually performing the duties one was trained for. I think most soldiers feel that way.”

Although being away from home isn’t easy, Jorgenson enjoys his job at the Pentagon.

“While I miss my family and carrying on my dean’s duties at South Dakota State University, I also find the work here energizing and gratifying,” he said. “I am learning a great deal about organizational leadership and about myself, which should help me be a better dean when I return.”

Many people have shown their gratitude to Jorgensen for the work he is doing.

“In many ways, this is a good time to be a soldier,” he said.

“No matter how people seem to feel about the war, whether they oppose it or support it, they seem to all be behind the troops and supportive of them. Hardly a day goes by out here where someone doesn’t either shake my hand or pat me on the back to thank me for serving. It makes you feel good to be a soldier.”

Jorgensen’s orders read deployment for one year. He also said there are no current plans to send him overseas, which makes his deployment easier for his wife, JoAnn.

“I don’t have any worries,” she said. “I think that was heightened by the knowledge that we knew he was going to be staying stateside.”

She and their three children don’t notice Jorgensen’s absence that much because he hasn’t been gone that long, JoAnn said. He has only been gone for about three weeks, which is the same amount of time he is usually gone for summer military training, she said.

“It seems like he has gone to summer camp,” JoAnn said.

It will be more noticeable when he won’t be at their children’s activities and when she will have to attend events at the university by herself.

“As it gets later on, it’s going to get harder,” JoAnn said.

Although leaving his duties as dean wasn’t easy, the people at SDSU were understanding about his deployment, Jorgensen said.

“Everyone has been wonderful. They have been very supportive of me and my family,” he said.

While Jorgenson is deployed, Dr. Kathleen Donovan, head of the English department, will be acting dean. He isn’t too worried about the leadership of the college and he expects it to be the same as if he were there.

“Under the capable leadership of Dr. Kathleen Donovan as acting dean and Dr. Daniel Landes as assistant dean, the college is in very good hands,” he said. “My expectations are that the business of the college will continue to be conducted while I am gone, and that the College of Arts and Science will continue to move forward in my absence.”

And that is what Donovan hopes to do while Jorgensen is away.

“I want to do the same good job he has done and keep the college moving forward… to continue as if Jerry was here,” she said. “We are very committed to making things run smoothly in his absence.”

Donovan said that Jorgensen will still handle a few duties, such as reviewing the teacher education programs in the college, but she will handle everything else.

Although Donovan is confident that the college will run smoothly, they will await Jorgensen’s return.

“We miss him a lot,” she said. “We wish him well and want him home safely very soon.”