The Last Word

Travel, Family are Priorities for Jensen in Retirement

Kyle Partain
Sheep Industry News Editor

ASI’s Mary Jensen has been easing her way into retirement for a few months now. Shortly after the association brought in Angela Fiorille to begin training for the position, Mary started leaving at 3 p.m. each afternoon. Once we got through the 2017 ASI Annual Convention, there were days we didn’t see Mary at all. By the time you read this, she should be fully retired. We think.

But cutting the cord – as they say – isn’t always easy for someone who has devoted 22 years to running the association. And there’s no doubt that Mary was the one who kept things moving in our office. Officially, she was the assistant to the director. But you’d be hard pressed to find any task performed in the ASI office that she wasn’t involved with in some form or fashion.

Anyone who’s worked at the same employer for two decades realizes how easy it is to find yourself taking on new assignments year after year. As that institutional knowledge accumulates, it becomes easier and easier for others to add new tasks to your plate. When Mary first started with ASI in 1992, a staff of more than 40 ran the association. Then came the loss of the Wool Act under President Bill Clinton. The staff shrunk to eight, and Mary found herself with a variety of new duties.

“When we lost employees, my job really expanded,” she recalls. “There were only eight of us, so we all had to learn new jobs. There was never any time to get bored. When I first came to ASI, I worked in the research and education department. I can remember when we used to run the National Sheep Improvement Program out of the ASI office.”

In 2001, Mary left ASI as her husband, Don, accepted a job in California. Three years later, ASI Executive Director Peter Orwick called and asked/begged (depending on who’s telling the story) Mary to return. Thankfully for the staff and members of ASI, she accepted.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” she said. “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have stayed all these years. I told someone the other day that ASI is like a family. In a way, I’ve spent more time with the people here than I did my own kids. They left home when they were 18, and I’ve been here 22 years. Retiring is kind of like moving away from family. I’m sure I’ll come by and visit from time to time, but it won’t be the same.”

In addition to traveling, Mary and Don plan to spend more time with their two children and three grandchildren. Son, Brandon, lives near the Colorado-Wyoming border in Wellington, Colo., and daughter, Alisa, is in the Denver suburb of Brighton.

Fortunately for the association, Mary is just one of several longtime employees. Three (Rita Kourlis-Samuelson, Orwick and Paul Rodgers) have all been with ASI for 25 years or more. Two (Larry Kincaid and Judy Malone) have been around for roughly 15 years. Despite her retirement, the association is still in good hands.

“There’s no doubt we will miss Mary,” says Orwick. “She tackled everything we could throw at her for 22 years and managed to keep smiling through it all.”

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