SIOUX CITY | Businessman Irving F. Jensen Jr.'s love of all things history has led to his efforts to preserve that history in Sioux City.
"We learn by our history," Jensen said. "If we don't pay attention, we will fail. Our politicians don't always pay attention to history. I believe it's important for young people to learn from our history and be proud of it."
Jensen's volunteer efforts will be recognized when he is presented with the Treasure of Sioux City Award at the mayor's press conference at 10 a.m. Friday on the Missouri Riverfront. The award is part of the 10th annual Historic Preservation Week activities. The award is not given every year.
"The reason we do this award is to recognize individuals, buildings, houses or objects that are important to our community," said Jim Jung, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission and Preservation Week committee. "This honor heightens awareness of the great things we have in Sioux City. ... Irving is one of those treasures."
The award will recognize some of the many projects undertaken by Jensen. In the late 1990s, he headed the Orpheum Theatre Preservation Project board, which raised the money to pay for extensive renovations to the theater that dates back to 1927. The renovated theater opened in 2001.
For the past 11 years, Jensen has helped Sioux City teachers go to the Teacher Institute at Colonial Williamsburg, Va. Jensen was quick to point out there is a group of around a dozen people who have provided the money for the tuition and expenses.
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"We send eight to 12 teachers a year, from grade school through high school. They study for about 10 hours a day for seven or eight days," Jensen said. "It's very intense."
Private investment is needed, he maintained, because the federal government emphasizes math and science courses be taught in the public schools, not history.
"We're a nation of immigrants. If we don't teach them history they won't be good citizens to make sure this nation goes forward," he said.
Through the years, Jensen estimated he has visited Colonial Williamsburg 40 to 50 times. Colonial Williamsburg is the world's largest living history museum, with many of the buildings dating from 1699 to 1780, including Revolutionary War history.
Jung also said Jensen has donated a number of restored vehicles to the Sioux City Public Museum on permanent loan. Those include a 1918 Mack fire truck and trucks and other vehicles, many of which had been used by his family's construction company, Knife River Corp. and Jebro, Inc.