The obvious answer to the question Where is MIT? is 77 Mass. Ave. But new MIT Alumni Association president Harbo Jensen, PhD ‘74, has a more insightful answer. “I have found that MIT is everywhere. Wherever people get together, the shared MIT experience creates a new MIT community,” he says. “When I graduated and moved 3,000 miles away, I still felt part of MIT.”
For Jensen, staying connected to MIT has meant more than leading the MIT Club of Northern California in the ’70s. He has sought out alumni worldwide during his career with Chevron’s international operations. When he led a project in Argentina, lunch meetings with leaders of the MIT Club of Buenos Aires deepened his understanding of that country. During a project in Greece, he and the head of the MIT Club of Athens discussed the management challenges of the imminent Olympics. Such conversations can develop quickly because of the common vocabulary of MIT experiences. “This spirit encircles the globe,” Jensen says. “I encourage alumni to take advantage of this opportunity to connect, either by becoming active in a club or just getting together informally with fellow alumni.”
As Association president, Jensen will continue his professional work as Chevron’s manager of international technical services. “It’s the perfect job for me,” he says. “It allows me to stay involved in technology, while working primarily in business and negotiations.” A Boston native, he earned his undergraduate degree at Northeastern University and a PhD in chemistry at MIT, and then studied at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Business. When he’s not traveling, he lives in Novato, CA, with his wife, Tyna, and 16-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Although he’s worked for Chevron since 1974, he also launched his own entrepreneurial venture, Cal Bionics, in the ’70s. As CEO, he successfully led the company’s signature product, hydrophilic polymers for soft contact lenses, through development, FDA approval, and manufacturing.
Jensen is on campus regularly as a member of the MIT Corporation and of visiting committees for chemical engineering, materials science and engineering, and biological engineering. His many leadership roles earned him the Association’s Lobdell and Bronze Beaver awards.
The new president sees participation as vital to strengthening MIT’s global presence. “Participation continually reinvigorates club leadership and develops new topics to interest new members,” he says. “Engaging tools such as the Infinite Connection are great ways of creating a virtual community. Then, getting together face to face creates a real community, our own little MIT community–anywhere we get together, anywhere on earth.”