Jay Jensen’s teaching career started in 1954. During his twenty-seven-year tenure at Miami Beach Senior High, Mr. Jensen taught six daily classes; as the school Thespian troupe director he inducted more than 850 Thespians. He directed more than three hundred plays and ninety musicals over his lifetime.
In addition to his teaching job, Mr. Jensen volunteered in the greater Miami area as a drama teacher and assisted with fundraising by producing plays and musicals. He served as president of the Miami-Dade Public Schools drama and speech department from 1970 to 1978, and also supervised intern teachers at the University of Miami School of Education. In the mid-1970s he was a regional director for EdTA.
Mr. Jensen’s idea of relaxation was teaching during his vacation at Colegio Peterson in Mexico City; later the school named its sports and arts center after him.
He gave generously to Miami arts and higher learning institutions, including donations of $3 million to the University of Miami School of Education and $1 million to the University of Miami Theatre Arts Department for a visiting artist endowment. In appreciation for this support and commitment, the university named its School of Education building after him.
In 2006 Mr. Jensen was prominently featured in the documentary Class Act, which was produced by the same team responsible for Super Size Me. The film highlighted the importance of arts education and the results of the elimination of arts and music programs from schools around the country. It includes interviews with Mr. Jensen and the recollections of several of his former students, including actor Andy Garcia, ESPN sportscaster Roy Firestone, director Brett Ratner, Broadway producer Adam Epstein, casting director Debra Zane, songwriter Desmond Child, and the president of Latin Univision José Behar.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, Mr. Jensen died in February 2007. His induction into the EdTA Hall of Fame is a posthumous tribute to his lifetime achievements in theatre education.