“Icon” 1954 alum still active with university


Sam Schoenbauer

Deloris Jensen attends an event at the SDSU Foundation Friday of Hobo Day week.

Jacob Boyko, News Editor (He/Him)

When it comes to love, no distance is too far and no time apart is too long for 90-year-old South Dakota State University alum Deloris Jensen.

It’s a sentiment that holds true for Jensen as she travels over four hours to support her alma mater nearly 70 years after graduating in 1954.

Jensen spent Hobo Day week in Brookings, marking her first trip to SDSU since the COVID-19 outbreak. Though she remained cautious around crowds and wore a mask to university events and Hobo Day celebrations, Jensen said she’s thrilled to return to her roots once again.

Jensen, then known as Deloris Mangels, arrived from her home in Clear Lake, South Dakota, to SDSU in the fall of 1950 for her freshman year of college.

“It was very small compared to now,” Jensen said about the campus. “One thing is very different: almost no students had a car except for the G.I.s.” 

Jensen lived in Wecota Hall (one of SDSU’s all-female dormitories) her freshman, sophomore and junior years. As the school continued to grow, she and five friends moved off campus into a professor’s house where they had the two-bedroom upstairs and the attic. The arrangement was cramped — two girls in each bedroom while the other two (Jensen included) set up their room in the attic. 

Jensen described an almost entirely different campus than what Jackrabbits know today, but one thing that remains consistent is the Student Union’s status as a premier hang-out spot.

“When you’d come in, you’d go down a few steps and that was called The Jungle and that’s where we would hang out,” Jensen said. “On the main floor, there were some rooms that had ping pong tables, and on the main floor there was a lounge area with a lot of Harvey Dunn paintings.”

While smoking isn’t allowed in the Student Union in 2022, that wasn’t the case in the 1950s.

“That was at a time when smoking was permitted,” Jensen said about the lounge in the Student Union. “The G.I.s — if they didn’t smoke before, they were then because they would always hand out free packs of cigarettes to the soldiers and sailors.”

Jensen wasn’t involved in any clubs or athletics, but dancing in the Student Union ballroom was a school activity she was always (maybe too much, she admitted with a smile) delighted to attend.

Now called the Volstorff Ballroom to honor Dean of Women Vivian Volstorff (whom Jensen recounted was known for her collection of fancy hats), the space was used for various balls throughout the year. The formal events included the military ball, ag ball and engineering ball, which were all boy-ask-girl while the co-ed ball was girl-ask-boy.

There wasn’t food or drink or anything incredibly fancy, Jensen said — just people enjoying the live music and having a good time.

“The ratio of gals to guys was one to four in my favor,” Jensen said as she chuckled. “You could date as many guys as you wanted. And it was fun! I had been told by my mother … ‘every guy is a beautiful son of some mother. You may think he’s a geek or whatever’… but I did not turn down dancing unless there was a reason.”

Jensen was set on going to college since the second grade, she said, when she read a book about a girl who went to college and had a great time.

“She had so much fun dancing and so forth … and that’s why I went to college,” Jensen said. “From the second grade on I knew I was going to — hoped to go —  to college.”

She met her husband, a Lake Norden, South Dakota, native and mechanical engineering student named Roland, at the Mount Calvary Church in Brookings. A mutual friend introduced them, but unbeknownst to Deloris, she and Roland had already crossed paths.

“He asked me, ‘have you met Roland yet?’” Jensen said as she chuckled. “And I said ‘no’ at the same time Roland said ‘yes.’”

The two were married 47 years and had two children, Georgiann Jensen Bohn and R.C. Jensen, before Roland passed away in 2006. 

Jensen majored in home economics, which has since become family and consumer sciences. She double minored in physical education and science and moved on to teach home economics for two years at the high school in Britton, South Dakota, before returning to SDSU to complete her master’s degree in home economics, which she completed in 1958. 

Through her career, she has taught home economics courses at adult, college and high school levels in South Dakota and Minnesota. Jensen also dedicated much of her adult life to volunteer work. 

One of Jensen’s points of pride is her grandson (evident by her “SDSU grandma” hoodie), Aric Jensen, who graduated last year with a degree in civil engineering. 

Jensen serves on the council of trustees, where she receives campus briefings, tours new buildings and discusses new university policy and strategy.

Lucy Forman, donor relations specialist at the SDSU Foundation, described Jensen as an “alumni icon,” adding that Jensen is proactive in her support and leads by example.

“Deloris and her late husband Roland have been avid supporters of student scholarships both annually and through endowments,” Forman said. “Their support has spanned across the university’s campaigns, including the Foundation’s first campaign, Visions for the Future, where Roland and Deloris hosted events to encourage alums and friends to support SDSU,  to the present where Deloris is participating in the current Bold and Blue campaign.”

Jensen is proud of what her university has accomplished since her graduation and sees only success on the horizon.

“I think SDSU is going to grow in numbers, but I hope not too much,” Jensen said. “There is a certain Midwest personality. … I’m going to continue to stay involved until I can’t.”