Eunice Ethel Jensen

Eunice Ethel Jensen, 84, an Oak Park resident for 36 years, died on Oct. 19, 2015. Born in Chicago on Nov. 19, 1930, she grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and moved to LaCrosse, Wisconsin in her teens. 

As the youngest and perhaps most restive of Royal and Ethel Jensen’s three daughters, she excelled in academics. Though a high school guidance counselor advised her to become a dime-store clerk, she chose instead to attend Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, graduating magna cum laude with a dual major in psychology and sociology. To put herself through school, she worked nights at Honeywell, assembling thermostats. 

While working for the National Opinion Research Center on the South Side of Chicago, she met and fell in love with her husband-to-be, Dan C. Lortie. She cajoled her groom into completing his Ph.D. thesis in sociology at the University of Chicago. On the strength of that work, he was hired to teach at Harvard University. Living frugally and happily, the newly-established Boston couple set about growing a family. Pamela was born in 1958, Peter followed in 1960, and then Paula in 1962. Though her hands were already full with three young children, she became the first woman accepted into Harvard’s business administration doctorate program. Under the tutelage of esteemed professor Felix Roethlisberger, she studied organizational behavior and completed her DBA in 1966.

Her husband was hired away from Harvard by the University of Chicago, which offered him a tenure track position. Their final child, Philip, was born in 1964, and all four children attended the U. of C. Laboratory Schools. Ms. Jensen began teaching part-time at DePaul University and after only a year was hired by Loyola University Chicago, where she remained as an associate professor of business administration until her retirement in 2000. She served as chair on the Faculty Appointments Committee and was a member of several other committees over the years.

She took seriously her role as a mentor for young women aspiring to succeed in the male-dominated world of business and established a sponsorship program for female students. As the feminist movement gained strength in the 1960s, she became increasingly impatient for change and spoke out against stereotypical notions and discriminatory treatment of women. In 1978, her marriage ended in divorce and she bought a home in Oak Park (the year it first became possible for a single woman to qualify for a mortgage loan). She set about transforming the grounds of her home into a magnificent garden and also enjoyed sprucing up her old Victorian home, crocheting, reading, and following current events.

At the age of 56, she began painting with chalk pastels and took classes at the Oak Park Art League and displayed her work in art shows and area businesses. Her depictions of natural landscapes, brimming with color, were often based on sights seen in travels to China, Denmark, Canada and the Midwest.

She was a loving and dedicated mother. In 1999, her oldest son, Peter, died when he was hit by a train. Having experienced what it was liked being the parent of a child with mental illness, she volunteered with the Metro-Suburban branch of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She taught their Family-to-Family classes in addition to serving on the organization’s board of directors. She volunteered as an usher for an organization called The Saints, which enabled her to enjoy the city’s top-notch theatre, dance, and opera performances.

In her final years, she visited frequently with her grandchildren, Sawyer, 24; Severn, 13; Carson, 13; and Dane, 7. She was preceded in death by her sisters, Eileen Koenig and Virginia Fanuko. The family is planning a noontime memorial service for Eunice Jensen on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Cheney Mansion in Oak Park. Anyone interested in attending is welcome to contact her son, Philip, for more details at memorial4eunicejensen@gmail.com. 

For those who care to donate, NAMI Metro-Suburban would welcome contributions in her name. Contact them at 708-524-2582 or 816 W. Harrison St., Oak Park, IL 60304.

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