In Memory

Jack Christensen (Faculty)

Jack Arden Christensen, 79, passed away November 5, 2006.  Jack, the son of Angus Arden and Affalone Christena Madsen Christensen, was born in Gunnison, Utah, on September 24, 1927.  At an early age he developed a deep love for music, theater and dance - three art forms which gave him much pleasure throughout his life.  He received his early education in the Gunnison Valley Schools and graduated with honors in 1945.  Jack enrolled at BYU and graduated in 1950 with a major in speech and drama and a minor in English.  During his years at BYU, he appeared in numerous theatrical productions, was a member of the Theta Alpha Phi, a national dramatic society; Orchesis, the BYU Modern Dance Club; and Blue Keys a national honorary service fraternity.  During the summer, he traveled as a vocalist with a Salt Lake City dance band.  After graduation he taught speech and English at South Cache High School, Gooding High School in Gooding, Idaho, then in Davis County during which time he received his Master's Degree in drama and anthropology from the University of Utah.  In 1956, he began teaching at Bryant Junior High where he taught for two years before joining the faculty of East High School where he remained until his retirement in 1982.  His first teaching assignment at East High was speech and drama; but after two years he began teaching English - first, Sophomore English and later, Senior College Preparatory English.  He also served as chairman of the East School English Department and as President of the Utah Council of Teachers of English.  In 1962, he was assigned as creative writing instructor, an assignment which gave him great satisfaction through the years as he saw his creative writing program expand from one to three years.  During the first year of teaching creative writing, his students won more awards that any other high school in the nation in the prestigious Scholastic Magazine Writing Contest.  From then until his retirement, his students continued to receive local and national awards in their writing.  A number went on to become professional writers.  It was also during his first year of teaching creative writing that he began a tradition that still exists at East - "Take Five" which is the performance of five student plays written, produced, directed, and acted entirely by the students.  Eventually, the drama department joined the team and through the years more than 200 original plays have been produced.  Jack believed that to be a successful writing instructor, he, himself, should also be a successful writer.  He wrote and published numerous short stories before he undertook his first major writing project.  He felt that the students should have a textbook for reference; and, because there were no high school creative writing books available, he wrote the first high school creative writing text published in the United States.  Finding more pleasure in writing poems that short stories, he began the serious study of poetry.  Through the years, he published a large number of poems - including four books of poetry - and won numerous awards such as the "Diploma de Benemerenza" awarded to him by Centro Studi e Scambi Internazionale in Rome for his contribution to international poetry.  In 1969, he was named "Utah Poet of the Year" by the Utah Poetry Society which published a book of his poetry.  He later became Associate Editor of "Media and Methods" an educational publication and was also asked to co-author a series of high school English textbooks which became the best selling high school English text in this country.  In 1979, he was named one of three foremost high school creative writing teachers in the United States by Scholastic Magazine and by Smith-Corona.  During this time, he was also active in University of Utah and community theater and modern dance.  Because of an interest in Asian Culture, Jack developed an Asian Studies class - the only one in a Utah high school.  To further his own interests in Asia - particularly in Japan - he studied the Japanese Tea Ceremony for seven years and was the first American student licensed to study the Tea Ceremony of Sohen Ryu, an ancient tea school headquartered in Kamakura, Japan.  For five years he was an assistant to the Reverend of the Nichiren Shu Temple and was asked by the American Leaders of the church to write a biography of Nichiren Shonin, founder of the church for and international celebration.  The book was published in Tokyo.  In addition to this book, he wrote on Chinese and Japanese cut-art.  In 1982, illness forced Jack into early retirement.  Limited in what he could do, he undertook the study of heraldry, designing and painting coats-of-arms.  He became a member of the American College of Heraldry, was accepted as a life member of The Hereditary Order of Armigerous Augustans and was, for some time, a member of Societas Heraldica Scandinavica headquartered in Denmark.  He also began to design and create jewelry which, as with many of his projects, received world-wide circulation.  Jack is survived by his mother; one brother, David (Shirlene) and his life-long friend and companion, Henry Neal Ivie; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his father, a brother, Teddy and sister, Linda.

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12/28/14 07:40 PM #1    

Linda Welch (LeBrane)

Because of Mr. Christensen I achieved my life's goal of becoming a poet.  I received my Master's degree in African American Poetry in 2011---he inspired us to take risks and not give a hoot aobut what anyone thought of our work!  "Just write."  Loved him!

01/15/15 10:43 AM #2    

Rinda Frye

Jack was a brilliant man and an amazing teacher.  I adored him.  I visited him in the late '80's and we had such a wonderful conversation about books, politics, ideas, all of the thing we both love/loved.  I remember as a student being absolutely amazed by the bredth of his knowledge of everything from zen Buddhism to creative writing.  He was very generous with me.  I remember that I was  judgmental about many things I knew nothing about, one of which was Dickens' books, which I sneered at when he assigned one.  I remember saying, "Oh, he was paid by the words."  Jack pointed out my shortcomings in  literary tastes and I recall that in class I had the audacity to say, "oh, go to hell."  There was a breathless moment and then he responded, "And spend eternity with you?  I don't think so."  He was wonderful.  Of course within about two years later I had read all of Dickens.  He was almost always right.  I miss him.

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