Kim Jenson’s first job was as a bank secretary in Fergus Falls. She credits her boss at the time, Mark Olson, with inspiring her to begin the rest of her career.
“He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself at that young age. He encouraged me to move on, to go to the Cities, keep moving up in the company, keep getting your education,” she said.
Now, she feels she has that responsibility of encouraging other people to do the same.
Jenson is being inducted into the Alexandria Education Foundation’s Alumni Hall of Fame this year. Two others are joining Jenson, who is from the graduating class of 1976: Sylvia Christopherson, a staff member from 1969-2001, and John Feda, class of 1942. Feda is a posthumous induction.
Recipients will be inducted at the Hall of Fame luncheon at noon Friday, Sept. 27 at the Broadway Ballroom.
Jenson is chief operating officer of Raymond James Financial, Private Client Group, in Florida. She leads several internal teams, including planning and strategy, associate financial services, investment central, PCG education, recruiting and succession planning.
Jenson has more than 30 years of financial services experience, beginning with Norwest Bank Minnesota. She spent 15 years with Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis, and was managing director and market head in UBS Financial Services’s Chicago market. She served as Midwest regional director and chief of staff for the CEO of UBS Wealth Management Americas until 2017.
She graduated from Jefferson High School in 1976 and attended Alexandria Technical and Community College, studying to be a secretary. She also went to North Hennepin Community College and Minnesota State University at Mankato, graduating in 1992.
Jenson holds several securities, life and health insurance licenses and the certified cash manager designation.
“Achieving these certifications over the years, none of them caused me to specifically get my next job, but they were all additive,” she said.
She encourages people to pursue certifications, designations and continued education because things change. “You’ve got to stay ahead of what’s changing in your industry.”
She has received multiple awards throughout her career, including the New York YWCA Women of Distinction, Chicago Biz Journal Woman of Influence and the Ed Connolly Leadership Award. Jenson served on the board of trustees for the Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio and Chicago Foundation for Women, and currently serves on the dean's advisory board for the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg.
While at Piper Jaffray, she received the Bobby and Tad Piper Community Service Award. She never thought of her volunteer work as award-winning, but winning an award for it helped her to realize that maybe she can inspire others.
“I really take great pride in giving back to the community,” she said.
When Jenson found out she was an inductee for the Hall of Fame, her first thought was that she wished her parents were still alive.
“They would be so proud; I just did what I did,” she said. “I left the town, but they left their mark.”
“It’s humbling and gratifying, all these years later, to receive this kind of recognition that I would never have thought possible when I was (in Alexandria).”
Christopherson served the district for 33 years, from 1969-2001, as a special education coordinator and diagnostician. She liked what she was doing, and said credit for the award reflects well on the entire district, naming teachers, principals, secretaries and parents.
“It was a team approach to individual learning,” she said. “There was always a challenge to improve what we were doing.”
The part of her career that she is most proud of is that aspect itself, simply the enjoyment of planning for students as a team.
“My role was leader of a team, but it was the team that made it successful,” she said. “I truly enjoyed my job.”
She graduated from high school in South Dakota and Concordia College in Moorhead. She followed up with her remedial reading certification from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and a master’s degree in reading and learning abilities from Moorhead State University.
Christopherson, who always wanted to be a teacher, taught in North Dakota classrooms before eventually switching to teaching special education, in order to do more for the students who needed special help.
Her career didn’t stop there. She presented at the International Learning Disability Conference in Houston in 1980, and the Alexandria Education Association honored Christopherson as its 1985-1986 teacher of the year for elementary staff. In the 1990s, she was certified as a peer monitor for the Minnesota State Department in Special Education.
After hearing she was going to be inducted into the hall of fame, she was shocked. “My first response was: I don’t qualify. There are so many qualified people in education,” she said.
“I was honored to honor education. The value of what a teacher does makes a difference in the life of a student.”
Since retiring in 2001, she has stayed in Alexandria. She even taught one semester at the University of Minnesota in Morris, filling in for an instructor on leave.
“Once we came to Alexandria, we knew we found home,” she said. “The home to raise a family and the home to be a part of the community.”
Feda graduated from Jefferson High School in 1942. He worked until he became a part of the Army Air Corps. He was a B-17 navigator in 23 bombing missions in Europe during World War II, then served in the Army Transport Command in the Pacific until his discharge in 1946 as a first lieutenant.
He earned his bachelor of arts degree from St. John’s University in 1950, his master of arts from the University of Minnesota in 1954 and his doctorate in education from the University of Minnesota in 1970.
He started his career as a teacher, then progressed to principal and then superintendent in Minneota, Alexandria, Nicollet, Villard, Shakopee and Marshall.
Feda was a member and president of the Minnesota State High School League. His education career culminated as state commissioner of education under Minnesota Gov. Al Quie in 1983, which his daughter, Beth Ritter, said was the highest point of his career.
“I still have people talk to me about him as a teacher,” said Ritter, one of Feda’s six children. “He just was passionate about what he did.”
Feda would be very proud to be included with the inductees and to not be forgotten by his high school alma mater, Ritter said.
Growing up, her father placed a lot of priority on homework and one of his expectations was that education didn’t all happen in a classroom.
“We were inspired to put time into academics,” she said.