Mt. Pleasant’s Bob Jensen to retire after 40 yearsFootball coach, AD and teacher to leave MPCHS at the end of the school year, but says his support for the Panthers isn’t going anywhere
After 40 years of teaching and coaching — with 39 of those years at Mt. Pleasant — Bob Jensen will retire at the end of the school year.
The Mt. Pleasant school board accepted his resignation at its meeting last night.
“I’m trying to keep my heart out of this, and make the decision with my head about what’s best for my family,” Jensen said. “I try not to think about it too much — I get too emotional.
“It was hard enough walking off the football field for the last time.”
When he left the field after a loss to this year’s district champion, Williamsburg, hardly anyone outside his family and coaching staff knew that it was the last game he’d be on the sidelines after spending 24 years as head coach.
Jensen said that his assistant coaches are some of the people he’ll miss most.
“They are my best friends and I appreciate all of their hard work and dedication,” Jensen said.
Before he took over the football team, Jensen was an assistant coach himself for 15 years under the late Bob Evans.
Between Evans’s 33 years as head coach and Jensen’s tenure that followed, Mt. Pleasant has only had two head coaches in the last 57 years.
“My guess is that you wouldn’t find that in any other school in the state — I can’t think of who it would be,” Jensen said.
Jensen finished his football coaching career with a record of 159-77. He took a team to the state semifinals three times, and was in the playoffs 13 times — and that includes many years where a playoff berth was a lot tougher to earn.
“I remember one year when we were undefeated until we lost the last game of the (regular) season. We thought we’d be out of it,” Jensen said.
The Panthers did end up playing postseason football that year. This season, they didn’t quite make the cut — but while he would have been happy with more wins, that’s not what Jensen’s focused on.
“The most important part to me has always been the students and athletes,” he said.
“I’ve been blessed with so many good kids at Mt. Pleasant — good kids, talented kids, who know how to work and how to live their lives, thanks to their parents,” he added. “It’s been my pleasure to work with them.”
Jensen, who has also been the activities director since 1998, has coached golf and wrestling in addition to football during his time at Mt. Pleasant.
The golf team made it to state several times in his 19 years of leadership, and while wrestling didn’t have a state dual tournament at the time, Jensen saw many individuals advance to the state tournament — finishing as high as third place — in his 12 years at the helm of that team.
“We had good success at wrestling,” Jensen said. “Three kids went on to compete at Division I schools.”
According to Superintendent John Roederer, Jensen has been a positive addition to Mt. Pleasant in his many roles through the years.
“Bob has been a huge asset over the course of his tenure here, for athletes and non-athletes alike, as well as for the community,” Roederer said. “He has been very influential in the lives of many of our students, and we really appreciate everything he does for the district and community.”
And Jensen doesn’t have a bad word to say about Mt. Pleasant, either.
“It’s been pretty wonderful, really,” Jensen said. “Mt. Pleasant’s been great to my family, a great place to raise children and get them an education.
“I’ve been afforded opportunities with the school district throughout the years,” he continued. “I don’t think many people would be in the same job for 39 years without changing responsibilities. It made it interesting, kept me motivated.”
And it’s not that he doesn’t still love it. Many factors went into his decision to retire.
“The biggest thing is that it’s the best thing for my wife and I,” Jensen said, referring to both financial planning and the time that the job demands.
As a public employee, Jensen is a member of IPERS, the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System. But under that system, an employee doesn’t have an option for how benefits are paid out until after retirement. If he were to die before retiring, Jensen said, he doesn’t think the system in place would be the best way to take care of his wife, Carolyn.
The impact of that situation hit home for Jensen when Aplington-Parkersburg’s football coach, Ed Thomas, was killed in 2009.
“We were the same age,” Jensen said. “I thought, I need to (retire) as soon as I’m financially able.”
Now 61 years old, Jensen feels like it’s time, and not only for financial reasons.
“The other factor,” he said, “is that I’ve had my run. I’ve been in education and coaching for 40 years, and when I want to go see my children and grandchildren, I can’t. This job requires a lot of hours, and I get tired.
“Things have changed a lot in coaching — if you’re doing it right, it’s nearly year round, with early morning workouts in the offseason for most sports,” Jensen added.
“Then, I’m still here at 9:30 or 10 at night. My wife deserves better there, too — I’m lucky that I still have her around.”
Bob and Carolyn Jensen have two children: a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Reid, who live in Waukee and North Liberty, respectively.
The Jensens also have three granddaughters, and another grandchild is on the way.
“Those girls love their grandpa almost as much as grandpa loves them,” Jensen said.
And while he’s looking forward to traveling to see his family, Jensen said that ultimately, he’s not going anywhere.
“We love it here,” Jensen said. “I didn’t come here with the intention of being here the rest of my life, but I can’t think of a better place to have been.
“We plan on staying right here, if they’ll have us for some more years.”
Jensen also has this year to finish out — his contract officially ends on June 18, 2013.
“I don’t want to quit before I retire,” Jensen said. “I want to give the school an opportunity to do a search for the best person to lead the (football) program, and the same with the activities director position.
“I hope they consider the football coaches in the process.”
According to Roederer, the process for finding someone to fill the position has not yet begun.
“Right now, we haven’t sat down and decided how we’re going to go about it,” Roederer said.
He expects to sit down with high school princial Todd Liechty, as well as a couple board members, to evaluate the position and set in place a plan for filling it.
“We’re hoping to, in the next couple months, get someone in place,” Roederer said. “We don’t want to wait until the end of the school year.”
As for Jensen, he’s not really sure what’s next. He just wants to make sure he’s available for whatever comes up.
“There’s a multitude of people that I owe a great amount of gratitude — I owe a lot of people a lot of time and help, and I hope they’ll ask me.
“I look forward to having time to take care of my own health a little better and help others as well. I don’t know what I’ll do yet, but I’ll find something. I’ve got a lot of hours left in me.”
One thing that won’t change is that Jensen’s presence at athletic events as he cheers on the Mt. Pleasant Panthers.
“I’ll still be their biggest fan. There’s only so much stupid stuff I can watch on TV — I don’t plan on staying home,” Jensen said.
But after this school year, he doesn’t have to come early to the games or stay until everything’s cleaned up.
“If I want to, I can leave in the middle!” Jensen laughed.