Robin Jensen never pictured himself as a Calvin College professor. Now, looking back on a 31-year teaching career, he is deeply grateful for the experience and the chance to inspire creativity in young people.
Jensen was an Air Force veteran teaching art near Dayton, Ohio, when Calvin College became aware of him and sent the only teacher of art at the college at the time, Edgar Boevé, to meet him.
“I was in an interview situation before I knew it,” he recalled. “But I could tell right away that I was at home [at Calvin], as far as teaching.”
Jensen coined the term “jaunting” to describe his artistic adventures—journeys on which he invited students to join him.
“The word ‘jaunt’ itself means a happy journey,” he said. “Well, that fits with education—it’s a journey, and it should be happy, to learn things. So I had my own definition for jaunting, which was ‘A life journey, full of creative adventures glorifying growth and wonderful surprises.’”
He used “jaunt” to describe all of the projects he assigned to his art students. Students related well to his term, and the teacher-student bond was strong.
Peter De Boer ’81, an alumnus who nominated Jensen for the award, wrote, “Life is a jaunt for Robin. It’s a jaunt with and for God. He’s a faithful servant who is eager to see what is around the next bend and then illustrating a light-hearted lesson about what he found.”
Jensen said that his favorite class was the basic introduction to art, which was a part of the core curriculum and full of non-art majors. He found joy in coaxing creativity from his students, championing the approach that “the art was in the idea,” and creative expression would eventually flow from a student’s need to express that idea.
Jensen required many sketches from his students, to encourage them to see deeply and get to know the subject of their art.
“I’d always say, ‘Everything talks, you just have to know how to listen,’” he said.
He is also remembered for his bicycling interim experiences, the first one a cross-country jaunt from California to Florida in 1980. That’s also how photography was introduced into the Calvin curriculum, as the “academic” component of that class.
Many Christian Reformed adults recall fondly Jensen’s simple, eye-catching drawings of people reacting to Heidelberg Catechism themes in the study books penned by Gordon Spykman and used by many churches in the 1960s and ’70s.
Today, Jensen continues to create art— primarily through computer-manipulated images—and to ride his bicycle. Recently, he was featured in Florida newspapers for going on an 87-mile bike trip on his 87th birthday.
De Boer noted that Jensen “continues to be a purple-clad, soft-spoken ambassador for Christ through his artistic expression and love for dusty, two-lane classrooms.”