Appreciations: In Recognition of Mark Jensen

Mark Jensen began his career in the French Program at PLU in 1989, fresh from Berkeley. A specialist of nineteenth-century French literature but polymath at heart, Mark wrote his dissertation on Alfred de Vigny’s historical fiction and is a leading scholar of Paul Bénichou, a preeminent critic of French Romanticism. Mark translated, with characteristic precision and elegance, several of Bénichou’s works from French into English–notably The Consecration of the Writer, 1750-1830 (The University of Nebraska Press, 1999). He authored articles on Vigny, Bénichou, Victor Hugo, and Georges Sand and contributed generously to Prism, PLU’s Humanities newsletter, and to Shadows and Echoes, a Languages & Literatures publication devoted to the art of translation. Indifferent to the corporate mantra of “productivity,” Mark has made inquiry his life rather than an instrument of his career. The U.S.’s militaristic response to 9/11 detonated Mark’s conversion to political activism. His voracious quest for knowledge collided with deep concern for social justice, and he founded United for Peace of Pierce County, serving as the (prolific) author of its website, which has received over 22 million hits since 2002. In parallel, he led “Digging Deeper,” weekly discussions of political and economic analyses hot off the press–totaling over 500 books (2004-2011).

Mark’s sweeping intellect and fine legal mind have impressed colleagues and, occasionally, bedeviled the administration. An excellent administrator himself–often as head of the French program–, Mark devised efficient solutions to practical problems. Mark participated generously in the faculty governance that guarantees academic freedom. He chaired the International Education and Instructional Resources Committees (1991-93; 1999-2000) and was elected Faculty Secretary (2005-2007). During his tenure as chair of Languages & Literatures (2001-2004), Mark led a valiant, but ill-fated fight to restore the integrity of PLU’s language requirement and oversaw the founding of Hong International Hall, on whose task force he has served since 2006. Mark’s institution of the annual International Poetry festival in 2002 represents his most personal legacy to PLU. Ceremoniously, Mark lit the flame of poetry (a candle) and invited students, faculty, and staff to share poems in any language over tea and scones.  

Erudition, patience, and kindness are the hallmarks of Mark’s teaching, whether in French or English, for Languages and Literatures or International Core. Mark believes strongly that French literature has had a lasting impact on the world and strives to communicate its value to students, through deeply researched syllabi and lectures. Though they dread the mountains of reading he assigns, students appreciate Mark’s flexibility regarding deadlines and clemency in grading. A modern-day Emile Littré, Mark excels at identifying appropriate reference materials for students. One semester, each of his French literature students received a dictionary of great French language writers. Mark is much beloved by students of his elementary French language classes. Meeting every week to converse with each individual student, he must be, one student surmised, “the hardest working professor on campus.”

Mark has indeed worked enormously hard at PLU. He remains a thought-provoking interlocutor, a cherished colleague, and a respected teacher.

by Rebecca Wilkin with help from Rochelle Snee

photo of Mark Jensen, Rebecca Wilkin, Laurence Schumann
PLU French Dept. Faculty: Mark Jensen, Rebecca Wilkin, Laurence Schumann