After four decades of service to The University of Texas-Pan American, Dr. Layne Jorgensen is still going strong.
The health and kinesiology professor credits his upbringing, religious background and his commitment to service for his educational success.
Jorgensen had plenty of motivation growing up in Greenville, N.C. as the third of seven children. His father was the athletic director and physical education department chair at East Carolina University (ECU), so Jorgensen's interest in sports came naturally.
It was no surprise when Jorgensen became a standout athlete at Greenville High School. He was selected as an all-state football player and awarded a scholarship to ECU.
"It is knowing where I came from, why I am here, and where I am going, in addition to setting high standards and striving to achieve them," Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen played one year of college football before he left on a nearly three-year mission to Uruguay for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When he returned from his missionary work, Jorgensen enrolled again at ECU. This time, he received a three-year swimming scholarship and achieved just as much success in swimming as in football.
He earned All-American honorable mention honors, and eventually received his bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education. Jorgensen accepted a job offer from Louisiana State University (LSU) to start its athletic swimming team. While at LSU he completed his Ph.D. in physical education in 1970.
When Jorgensen began his search for a permanent teaching job, he looked to then-Pan American College.
"I was invited down, given a job offer and the rest is history," Jorgensen said.
The UTPA graduate program coordinator recently received a Faculty Excellence Award in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the College of Education. The honor is given to faculty members who have given their best to advance the success of students and the University. Jorgensen was selected for his years of service to the University and his commitment to student advisement.
"I do not like being singled out and recognized for work that in most cases was not done by me alone. There are many who have contributed to my success and I wish they too could be recognized," he said. "Life today is more complex than in my generation. Students need all the mentoring they can acquire to be successful."
Jorgensen said he decided to pursue a career in athletic education to follow in his father's footsteps.
"He was my role model and I always wanted to be like him, so I chose a similar career. Also, being good in sports didn't hurt my choice," Jorgensen said.
Though he has climbed to the top rung of the educational ladder, Jorgensen said he believes higher education is not for everyone. Yet he still strives to motivate and inspire his students to succeed.
"Some are not cut out for the academics; they would do better in a trade school or similar career path," Jorgensen said. "Whatever the case, all students should get as much education in their chosen career as possible. I want to help the student to see where they come from, to see their true potential, and what they can become. Once this is done the rest takes care of itself."
After 42 years in the college teaching profession, Jorgensen said he is still learning how to be a better educator.
"As teachers we should have more impact on the lives of our students than anyone except their parents. I take this responsibility seriously. If I don't continuously strive to become better in my profession, I am failing my students," he said.
Now 68 years old, Jorgensen said the next decade will be about service to his church and family. He has been married to his wife Michelle for 31 years, has six children who all attended UTPA, and is also a grandfather of 12.
"I would like to serve a mission for my church. I'd like to spend time with family members, especially my grandchildren, and just spoil them."