John W. Jensen

JOHN JENSEN has led a 40-year career dedicated to improving lives through the development of aquaculture in communities around the world.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management from the University of Minnesota in 1969, Jensen served as a Peace Corp volunteer in Brazil, where he helped fishermen develop a fish marketing cooperative that would lift many out of poverty. In 1972, he joined the Auburn University staff as a research associate working to build a Brazilian aquaculture industry. The work he and his colleagues conducted in Brazil ultimately led to the development of tilapia as a commercially grown fish.

Jensen returned to Auburn in 1975 and, in 1979, was appointed fisheries extension specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. His work in this role led to the founding of the Alabama Fish Farming Center and the Alabama Catfish Quality Assurance Program. He was named head of Auburn’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in 1995 and then interim dean of the College of Agriculture and interim director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station in 2001. He served in the latter role until 2004. Through his leadership in each of these positions, Auburn’s fisheries and aquaculture program was named a Peak of Excellence in 2002.

Following his time as interim dean and director, he served as Auburn’s special assistant to the president for agriculture from 2004 to 2005. Upon his retirement in 2007, he was named professor emeritus and visiting scholar. He returned to Auburn from 2013 to 2015 to serve as interim director of his former department, which had been renamed the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.

Throughout his career and in retirement, Jensen has loved challenges. In 2012, he completed his hike of the Appalachian Trail. Also in retirement, he has continued to travel frequently to Brazil and has helped establish an aquaponics system in Honduras to produce fish and vegetables for more than 500 orphans. Jensen also serves on the executive board for the Sunbelt Agricultural Expo in Moultrie, Georgia.

Jensen and his wife, Marianne, have four children and six grandchildren. They reside in Auburn.