Acquiring determination to succeed

October 21, 2004, vol. 31, no. 4
By Stuart Colcleugh

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“Most likely to succeed” was not the phrase that came to anyone's mind when contemplating Victor Jensen's first-year performance at SFU in 1995. Most likely to get tossed out, was more like it.

“Yeah, I spent more time in the pub than in class,” admits the Burnaby Central high school grad, citing family issues and a lack of interest in school as contributing factors. And tossed out he was, after failing to complete any of his courses.

From there, things only got worse. A year later, in 1997, he was in a deteriorating relationship and facing “a life of waiting tables and partying” when his older brother Gerald, a high-functioning autistic, disappeared. It was a wrenching blow (Gerald is still missing) to the family, who Jensen says had almost lost hope he would amount to anything.

Then a small miracle happened: his son was born. “Having a son and working in a restaurant for several years convinced me that I wanted to go back to school,” says Jensen. “It gave me the discipline, determination and drive I needed.”

After two qualifying semesters at Capilano college where he earned straight As and A+s, Jensen returned in 2001 to SFU, now a single father with a new and supportive girlfriend.

He graduates this fall with a bachelor of science in cellular and molecular biology, a very respectable 3.94 cumulative grade point average out of 4.33 and an entrance scholarship to study medical genetics at UBC.

With only two weeks off this summer to marry SFU history grad Jennifer Bradley, Jensen is back on track - in what one instructor calls “one of the most successful turnarounds ever” - to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming a biologist and university professor.

His turnaround hasn't been without obstacles (he broke different legs on two separate occasions). But Jensen says that thanks to his bride, his family, his classmates and his academic advisor, geneticist David Baillie, the road ahead looks bright.

And when his six-year-old son reaches university, he laughs, “I'll be keeping a very close eye on him.”

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