Paul Jorgensen BA ’85
June 15, 2012
As the Lewis & Clark overseas study program celebrates its 50th year, six alumni reflect on their life-changing journeys. Learn more about Paul Jorgensen BA ’85 below and then browse other alumni stories.
From: Salt Lake City, Utah
Overseas Program: Denmark/Greenland, 1983
Currently: Lawyer in Washington, D.C.
The impact of Lewis & Clark’s Denmark/Greenland program on his life, says Paul Jorgensen, has been “permanent, lasting, and pervasive. It has informed the way I look at the world, my career, and my family, and has tied me to people here and across the world. There’s not much in my life that it hasn’t touched and affected in a very positive way.”
Two things in particular—a moment and a mentor—have stayed with Paul ever since.
There’s not much in my life that it hasn’t touched and affected in a very positive way.
The moment that he’ll always remember came in Greenland. After a long, bug-tortured day of hiking, the group was rewarded by a stunning site: “It was a fairly ordinary-looking lake,” says Paul, “but cascading off the side was this thing that looked like Niagara Falls. In the valley far below was a tiny farmhouse, and beyond that, a bay rimmed with icebergs. It was almost impossible to conceive what we were seeing.” And yet, the best was still to come. That night, bone weary, Paul had just crawled into his tent when a scream shot him back outside. “Someone shouted, ‘Look up!’” Paul recalls vividly. “The sky was literally on fire and dancing with color.” In all their planning for the program, no one had ever mentioned that the group might get a glimpse of the aurora borealis. “It was unanticipated and completely haunting,” he says. “If there were a day that I could live again, that would be it.”
It has informed the way I look at the world, my career, and my family, and has tied me to people here and across the world.
The mentor, an adult advisor on the program, was named Ivan. “He was a wonderful guy, as big and bearlike as a guy named Ivan should be, with hands the size of frying pans,” says Paul. In talks throughout their stay, Paul learned that Ivan worked as a lawyer while also publishing a newspaper, raising a family, working with kids’ groups like the Lewis & Clark overseas program, and more. “He did all these amazing things,” says Paul, “and I thought, hold it, you can have this rounded existence as a lawyer?” Paul thought about that a lot after returning to Lewis & Clark, and by the time he graduated, he decided to follow Ivan’s lead. Today, Paul has his own firm in Washington, D.C. “It’s going great, and it allows me to do all the other things I want to do in my life,” he says. One of those things, also inspired by Ivan, is helping to lead Lewis & Clark’s Washington, D.C., program, which he has done since 1991.
Last spring, Paul took his wife and three children to Denmark to meet his home-stay family—still very close friends—and to catch up with Ivan. After hearing about everything Ivan had been up to since 1983, Paul’s wife, clearly shaken, told Paul, “We’ve got to get going. We’ve got a lot more stuff to do.” To this day, says Paul, “We still hold ourselves to the Ivan standard.”
Read about how other alumni were influenced by their overseas experiences:
Overseas Program: India, 2001
Overseas Program: Israel, 1980
Overseas Program: London, 1992
Overseas Program: Japan, 1962
Overseas Program: East Africa, 1998