Roy Jensen admits that when he graduated from high school in Gardner, Kansas, he, like most his age, “didn’t have much of a clue” about what he wanted to do with his life. Two things were pretty certain, however: He loved playing basketball and he was sure that he didn’t want to become a doctor.
Today, Dr. Roy Jensen is leading the KU Cancer Center in an ambitious drive to become a National Cancer Center Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. The goal is to build it into one of the top research facilities in the U.S.
As he reflects on the surprising path his life has taken, Jensen points to Pittsburg State University, some PSU faculty and a very special PSU alumna who guided him into his current leadership role in the battle against cancer.
After high school, a scholarship to play basketball took Jensen to Neosho County Community College in Chanute, Kan. It was at Neosho County that Jensen met chemistry teacher Norma Steinman, a PSU graduate and a woman who, Jensen says, made all the difference.
“I started out with the idea that I might be a lawyer,” Jensen said, “but I always liked science a lot. Norma introduced me to the potential of doing research.”
Steinman, who received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from PSU, clearly recognized something special in the young student. She arranged for Jensen to visit Pittsburg State University and encouraged him to think about the university’s well-respected pre-med program. Jensen took Steinman’s advice and arrived at PSU in 1978. He discovered immediately that his mentor had steered him in the right direction.
“There were great faculty on campus,” Jensen said, recalling names like Bettie Duncan, Alex Bednekoff, Jim Pauley and Leland Keller, who was, he said, “a force to be reckoned with.”
Jensen’s passion for research was nurtured immediately. He started doing microbiology research with Bettie Duncan and his first project was submitted for presentation at a medical conference in Nebraska. At that conference, Jensen heard a presentation by Dr. Zell McGee, a microbiologist at Vanderbilt University. McGee so inspired Jensen, that he eventually went to Vanderbilt for his medical training after graduating from PSU in 1980.
In a visit to Pittsburg earlier this year, Jensen spoke with students and faculty in the Biology and Chemistry Departments.
“I told the students they were lucky to be in a place where teachers are really committed to students,” Jensen said. “The professors at PSU are devoted to teaching. I had a great experience at Pittsburg State and many great teachers had a tremendous affect on my life.”
For information about pre-med and other undergraduate programs in the Department of Biology, call 620-235-4732 or visit the department Web site at www.pittstate.edu/biol/ungr.html.