The city of Spearfish would look much different if not for the real estate leadership of Black Hills State University alum Joe Jorgensen. Jorgensen was recently named the 2017 Swarm Day Parade Marshal.
A distinguished teacher, veteran, and real estate entrepreneur, Jorgensen will lead the annual homecoming parade through Spearfish Saturday, Sept. 9 beginning at 10 a.m. at the Donald E. Young Center Parking Lot and will proceed down St. Joe Street, Jackson Blvd. and then Main Street.
It’s a bit of a flashback for Jorgensen who helped plan the homecoming festivities at Black Hills State 50 years ago as the student chairman of the Swarm Day Committee.
“Every club spent days and weeks building their float for the parade,” remembers Jorgensen.
“The floats were huge and stuffed with napkins of different colors.”
Born and raised in Witten, S.D. in Tripp County, Jorgensen began attending Black Hills State in 1964. His hometown graduating class included just 10 students, so attending Black Hills State was a big jump for Jorgensen.
“I was nervous initially going to a big school. But I took one speech course and one theatre course to start and I just continued until I obtained my degree. I’ve used those course throughout my lifetime and Black Hills State was a big contributing factor to my success,” said Jorgensen.
Jorgensen graduated with bachelor’s degrees in social studies and speech/theatre and started teaching at Spearfish High School. Jorgensen taught several subjects including world geography, world affairs, psychology, sociology, and speech. He obtained his master’s degree in educational administration with an emphasis in guidance and counseling from BHSU in 1970.
After three years of teaching, Jorgensen was drafted into the U.S. Army where he worked with Pershing missiles. When the Vietnam War came to an end, Jorgensen returned to teaching in Spearfish and then went into real estate.
“The education my dad provided me, learning how to trade just about anything – from horses to land, real estate was always an interest of mine,” said Jorgensen, whose parents were livestock dealers.
Ever the forward-thinker, Jorgensen brought the first seated chain restaurant to Spearfish with the introduction of Pizza Hut. He introduced townhouses in 1983 and is now developing the city’s first “pocket neighborhood” Crow Peak Place.
Just one of Jorgensen’s honors or accolades would be enough recognition for a lifetime, but his commitment to economic development is consistently recognized by his neighbors. Jorgensen received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce in 2017, Lifetime Achievement from the Black Hills Board of Realtors in 2013, the Volunteer Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2008 from Black Hills Community Economic Development, the Spirit of Spearfish Award in 2007, the Vocation Award from the Rotary Club in 2006, the Spearfish Economic Development Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and BHSU Distinguished Alumnus in 1987.
He has served on the Spearfish School Board, as President of the Spearfish Economic Development Corporation, and was elected as Mayor in 1981.
Of all his accomplishments, Jorgensen said he is most proud of establishing Jorgensen Park and all the parks through which he’s worked to dedicate land to the City.
“We’ve contributed walking and bike paths to the City which the City has continued to maintain for the community. I’m also proud of the bronze horse statues we built to honor our parents at Jorgensen Park,” said Jorgensen.
Over the years, Jorgensen has supported BHSU by giving to several student scholarship funds named in honor of faculty and students: Marion Hilpert, Sever Eubank, Charlotte Forsberg, and the T.H. and June Proctor Scholarships.
Jorgensen is currently working with a group of developers on a commercial development called The Village at Creekside, and also on Dakota Meadows – a commercial and housing venture at exit 10.
“Spearfish is a wonderful place to live with no mosquitos,” Jorgensen says simply when asked why he chose to stay and build his career here. “I’m very honored and pleased to be the Swarm Day Parade Marshal at my alma mater.”