By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
Dr. Jo Jorgensen, 2020 Libertarian presidential candidate, spent her undergraduate career at Baylor in the mid-1970s.
This was right before the tradition of lighting Pat Neff Hall green for athletic victories began, before the W.R. Poage Legislative Library was established and before the first ever Welcome Week.
Right before she headed out to speak at a campaign rally in Milwaukee on Friday, she spent a few minutes on Zoom, reflecting on what her time as a student at Baylor looked like.
Jorgensen spent her freshman year living on the fifth floor of Ruth Collins Hall, where she recalls that she had a strict curfew of 11:30 p.m.
“We had curfew, and I would do a 2 1/2 mile run, and I would purposely leave at 11:05 every night because our curfew was at 11:30, so then if I got tired halfway through, I had to keep going,” Jorgensen said. “I usually got back at 11:28.”
She even recalls walking up and down five flights of stairs on crutches at one point.
However, after meeting her husband at Baylor, she got married right after her sophomore year of college.
“I lived in married student housing and an off-campus house, so it’s a little different when you’re married,” Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen graduated with a Bachelors degree in psychology in 1979. She reflects that she had originally wanted to go into biology but was required to take a psychology course during her early years at the university.
“In fact, I even bought a used book for it because I thought, ‘Who cares?’” Jorgensen said. “And I loved it.”
However, after taking this course, she was intrigued by a survey that her professor had introduced her to.
In this survey, doctors and nurses were each individually asked about which patients would live and which would die. While the doctors based their decision off of medical tests, the nurses based their decisions on the optimism and happiness of the patients. The nurses better predicted the outcome than the doctors did.
“I thought, wow, if the brain is that powerful, that’s what I want to study,” Jorgensen said.
She said her studies in psychology helped her further develop her Libertarian viewpoint. In addition to coursework, she was also a part of CHIS or, Clasped Hands in Service, an all-girls service sorority and the oldest sorority at Baylor.
“It was a service sorority, as opposed to a social sorority,” Jorgensen said. “I volunteered to be a campfire girls leader for a group of deaf girls, so I took sign language on campus — not as a class but just after hours.”
Founded in 1955, the organization recently celebrated its 65th anniversary. Members volunteer throughout campus and the Waco community each week.
Current adviser of CHIS, Professor Amber Adamson, said that while there are sisterhood aspects to the club, the real heart behind the club is to serve.
Adamson said it was created as an answer to Chamber when it was an all-male organization.
“It predates sororities and Greek life, so the women of CHIS are interested in service to the community and to their campus,” Adamson said.
Adamson said that in the current day, members volunteer at places such as food pantries and animal shelters as well as clean-ups at Cameron Park.
“I’m not surprised that Jo was a member of CHIS and has gone on to public service because that’s the heart of what the club is,” Adamson said.
Jorgensen was also a part of Psi Chi, the psychology National Honor Society.
Founded on campus in 1942, this organization states that its mission is to “produce a well-educated, ethical, and socially responsible member committed to contributing to the science and profession of psychology and to society in general.”
Jorgensen also said that at one point she considered joining a sports team on campus.
She said she went to basketball and diving practice a couple times but, “didn’t see how athletes ever got their schoolwork done being an athlete, so I decided that was not for me.”
When she reflected on campus memories she stated, with a laugh, that she remembered the NoZe Brotherhood well and recalls watching All-University Sing.
“I remember one of the fraternities did a joke once [during Sing] and everybody was upset with it, but I thought it was pretty funny,” Jorgensen said.
She also said that she remembers loving the football games, despite the long distance to Floyd Casey Stadium, which was located about 4 miles from campus.
“Although, I didn’t have a car,” Jorgensen said. “I had to work to get to the football games because, of course, we didn’t have Uber or anything back then, but I do remember going to a few football games and enjoying it.”
After graduating from Baylor in 1979, she went on to attend Southern Methodist University, just 100 miles away in Dallas, to earn her master’s degree in Business Administration.
After a career working at IBM, Jorgensen then moved to Greenville, S.C., where she started her own software sales business, became a partner at another company and founded a business consulting company.
She then attended Clemson University in 2002 to earn her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She has taught there as a lecturer since 2006.
Jorgensen said that while she hasn’t been able to make it back to Baylor’s campus, she recently took her campaign bus across Interstate 35 and got to catch a glimpse of campus through the construction.
“I really wanted to stop and take a look,’” Jorgensen said. “I don’t have any family that lives in Texas, and so I just never go east of Illinois, so I just haven’t had reason to go back there.”
She now has two adult daughters and a grandson.
“I did enjoy my time at Baylor,” Jorgensen said. “I even tried to talk my daughter into going to Baylor, but she didn’t want to be so far away from home … but I was kind of hoping she would go back, but I can’t wait to go back and visit at some point.”
Jorgensen is now the first woman to become the Libertarian presidential nominee and will be hosting her election night party in Dallas on Nov. 3.