Dick Jorgensen grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the 1930s and served in the U.S. Navy for three years during World War II. He completed his bachelor of arts degree in sociology/American studies from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1950 and a master of arts degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1954. He then was given what would turn out to be the opportunity of a lifetime to launch his global interests.
Under the sponsorship of The Asia Foundation, he moved to Japan to represent the University of Michigan as an English teacher at the fledgling Hiroshima University. The assignment was a Peace Corps-type program begun seven years before John F. Kennedy called for establishment of the Peace Corps.
His first trip around the world happened in fall 1956.
Returning to San Francisco as a program officer with The Asia Foundation, his experiences broadened and his passion for anything Asian was enhanced. Jorgensen stayed in California to accept assignments at Berkeley High School as a U.S. history teacher and then as a trainer of history teachers at the University of California, Berkeley. In the summer of 1965, he directed the first History Institute for Teachers at UCB. In administering this program, and having become known as an “idea man,” he accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. This kid from the Midwest relished becoming a resident educational activist in our nation’s capital, where, in the shadow of Capitol Hill, education legislation was enacted.
While in this diverse and culturally rich climate, Dick completed his Ph.D. in history at Georgetown University (with an emphasis on U.S.-Japan cultural relations). He returned to the Department of Education to assume positions as the national director of the Teacher Corps/Peace Corps program and director of dissemination for programs in foreign languages and international studies in America.
Traveling the world over and associating with professionals in the field of international affairs whetted Dick’s appetite for further education and experiences beyond his wildest imagination. More recently, Dick has continued his travels to volunteer as a teacher in Kunming, China, Chennai, India, and the Cook Islands, with additional travels in Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Afghanistan, and European countries.
Dick is completing his memoirs, focusing on how a kid from the Midwest seems to have gotten hip and become a bona fide Citizen of the World.