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Renaldo M. Jensen

Aerospace engineer and military officer Renaldo Mario Jensen was born on June 29, 1940, in New York, New York. His parents, Octave and Doris Davis Jensen, had roots in St. Croix and Antigua, respectively. Jensen attended St. Charles Borromeo School and graduated from Harlem’s Bishop Dubois High School in 1952. He served in the Reserve Officer Training Corps at North Carolina A&T State University, then transferred to Howard University where he graduated in 1958 with his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering. After enlisting in the United States Air Force, Jensen and Horace Russell became the first two African Americans to earn their M.S. degrees in aerospace engineering from the United States Air Force School of Technology at Dayton’s Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1966. In 1970, Jensen received his Ph.D. degree in aerospace engineering, specializing in supersonic combustion, from Purdue University.

While serving for twenty years as an officer in the United States Air Force, Jensen was stationed in Florida, Colorado, and Germany; he also worked on the Minuteman missile crew at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Jensen, a combat crew commander, participated in the first successful launch of a dual mode intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base. He joined the faculty of the Air Force School of Technology at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1967 and taught at the school until 1974. In 1978, Jensen resigned from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel having received the Missile Combat Crew Award and the Air Force Commendation Medal. Jensen taught at Howard University and worked at the Pentagon before joining Ford Motor Company as an aerodynamics engineer. He became the director of minority supplier development in 1987, and in 2004, he awarded $3.7 billion of the $90 billion in Ford supply contracts to 309 minority suppliers.

Jensen is a member of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce, the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics, the National Minority Business Development Council, the Combustion Institute, the Military Operations Research Society, and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society. Also a member of the Minority Suppliers Hall of Fame, Jensen lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan with his wife Alicia, with whom he raised two children.

Accession Number

A2005.101

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/8/2005

Last Name

Jensen

Maker Category
Middle Name

M.

Schools

Bishop Dubois High School

St. Charles Catholic School

St. Charles Borromeo School

First Name

Renaldo

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

JEN05

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

National Science Foundation

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Don't spend maximum time with minimum people.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

6/29/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork, Potatoes, Grapes

Short Description

Military officer and aerospace engineer Renaldo M. Jensen (1940 - ) was one of the first two African Americans to earn their M.S. degrees in aerospace engineering from the United States Air Force School of Technology at Dayton’s Wright Patterson Air Force Base. During the course of his career, Jensen worked with the United States Air Force, Howard University, the Pentagon, and Ford Motor Company.

Employment

United States Air Force

Ford Motor Company

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Renaldo Jensen's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Renaldo Jensen lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his mother and childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Renaldo Jensen describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Renaldo Jensen describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his mother and growing up without his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his relationship with his extended family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his Catholic school experience and childhood interests

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his decision to attend college

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his experience at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Renaldo Jensen discusses his experience in the United States Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Renaldo Jensen talks about the challenges and responsibilities of being in the United States Air Force

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Renaldo Jensen talks about working at the Pentagon

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Renaldo Jensen talks about the Defense Readiness Condition system and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Renaldo Jensen talks about U.S. Military testing and experimentation, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Renaldo Jensen talks about U.S. Military testing and experimentation, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Renaldo Jensen discusses going to work at Ford Motor Company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his work with the Ford Motor Company Design Center

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Renaldo Jensen talks about becoming Ford Motor Company's Director of Supplier Diversity

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Renaldo Jensen talks about Ford Motor Company's Supplier Diversity Program

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Renaldo Jensen reflects on his opportunities and accomplishments

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Renaldo Jensen discusses the successes of Ford Motor Company's Supplier Diversity Program

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Renaldo Jensen talks about the challenges and responsibilities of working with suppliers

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Renaldo Jensen reflects on his work with Ford Motor Company

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his concerns for the African American Community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Renaldo Jensen reflects on his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Renaldo Jensen talks about his love of motorcycles

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Renaldo Jensen reflects on what he has learned and how he wants to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

11$3

DATitle
Renaldo Jensen talks about his decision to attend college
Renaldo Jensen talks about the challenges and responsibilities of working with suppliers
Transcript
So, from what it sounds like, you pretty much knew you were going to college, I guess?$$Oh, yes, there wasn't a question. When I, came time to go to college, my mother [Doris Davis] had saved money. And it wasn't a question of are you going to college? She said, which one are you going to?$$Was it the same for your sister?$$Yes, yes. I tell you. She was an amazing woman who really believed that education was the key to the future. And that's the West Indian upbringing. You know, you work hard, but you will be educated. You "will" be educated. There was never a question of us not going to college.$$Okay, so how did you decide on which college you were going to when you were a senior?$$A couple of ways. I wanted to go to Cornell [Cornell University], Ithaca, New York, at the time. But they wouldn't, they were kind of reluctant to accept African Americans at the time, okay. So my sister college before me. She went to North Carolina College in Durham [North Carolina]. And--$$Was that a black college?$$Yes, a historically black university. And I wanted to, I guess being her sibling, I wanted to be closer so I went to, I wanted to go into the Air Force. I wanted to go into ROTC [Reserve Officers' Training Corps]. And Howard [Howard University, Washington, District of Columbia]--and A and T College in Greensville, North Carolina [North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University] had an Air Force ROTC program, one of the few black colleges that was available to us at the time, had an Air Force ROTC, Reserve Officers' Training Corp, a program. And I went to A and T. And interesting enough, at A and T, I got into the Air Force ROTC, and I majored in science. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be in the Air Force, I guess. So I just picked something that I could use if I had to fall back on it in the Air Force. And I picked science, and at that time, general, really, first year especially, take the basic math, English, whatever. And interesting enough, the classes were so easy, and I took this as a function of my Catholic school upbringing and teaching and learning. But I never bought books (laughter), never. The money I'd use to buy books, I used it for something else and excelled in all the classes. I never really had to study because they were three years behind in what I had already learned from coming out of the Catholic school. So I excelled and I said, this is not for me. This is not--so I transferred to Howard University.$You've had calls where people call to ask like, what can I make to--$$Yeah, exactly right. And you know, you can laugh at them [suppliers] and say, oh, this is ridiculous, but I believe they're sincere, that they really want to have a business. They really want to provide something and here's an opportunity they think that maybe they could take advantage of, and here Ford [Ford Motor Company] is reaching out to this diverse community for whatever reason. They may not know, but they say, here's an opportunity, and why don't I just ask. So they call me and say, you run the program for? Yes, I do. He says, well, I'm an entrepreneur. I wanna start a business. I wanna supply Ford because you guys are doing such a fantastic job in developing suppliers, and you won the award. So what can I do and what is it that you need that I can help you by providing? Okay, and, of course, we say, you've got to be in business to do business with us. We are not in the business of putting you in business. We're in the business of doing business with you. So you have to have a business. You have to have a skill. You have to have a product that is of value to us now and in the long run. So once I explain it to them, they understand. And then you get some really irate guys who says, well, you're a prime contractor to the federal government. Yes, we are. Oh, you're, being a prime contractor to the federal government, you have a contract with the federal government. I said, yes, we do. Well, the SBA [Small Business Administration] says that you must be doing, you must, as a prime contractor, do business with diverse groups. I say, yes, they do. Well, I'm a diverse group. I said, okay, what do you provide? He says, I provide furniture, and I know you're sitting in a chair in your office, and you have a desk there that you're writing on. I said, yes, we do. He said, well, I'm a small business. You're a prime contractor. I sell office furniture, so you must do business with me. I said, really? He says, yes, because you serve as prime to the federal government, and you must do business with small businesses by law. I said, okay. How many types of furniture do you have? How many models? How many models and brands do you stock? He said, well, I stock four. I said, okay, who are they? Steelcase and a couple of others, three others. I said, okay. How many are out there? He said, what do you mean? I said, how many are out there besides the four that you stock, how many other models or brands of furniture are out there that you elected not to stock, except for the four that you do stock? He said, well, there're about seven others. I said, so you're making a decision on who you do business with, right? He said, yeah. I said, well, bingo, same thing we do too. You're a small business. We must do business with small businesses, but we make a distinction of who we do business with, and your approach is, I don't believe, is in the best interest of Ford Motor Company or Ford Motor Company doing business with you. Bam. Then that's it, conversation over. But that's the type of calls you can, you get. And, you know, and it can get kind of sarcastic, but because they're trying bogard (ph.) your way in to say, hey, if you don't do business with me, you're a racist. Or if you don't do business with me, you're not obeying the law so therefore, I'm a small, and you've been discriminating against small businesses all your professional life, and I'm a small business. You're gonna discriminate, be discriminating against me, I'm a take you to task. (Unclear) deal with it. But again, in the long run, we do business with those who we feel add value to our long-term process of satisfying our customers, the people like you and the public.