Paul Jorgensen

Paul Jorgensen

  • Funeral Date: 2/18/17
  • Funeral Time: 2:00PM
  • Date of Birth: 8/09/25
  • Date of Death: 1/25/17
  • Funeral Location: St. John's Lutheran Church - Northfield

Paul Sejr Jorgensen

August 9, 1925 – January 25, 2017


Paul Jorgensen passed away peacefully in Northfield on January 25th at the age of 91. A caring, gentle, and kind man, Paul was known widely for his clever way with a joke and a big laugh.  His marriage to Joann has been a constant source of love and joy for them both and an inspiration to those around them. He was the best Dad a kid could ask for, always loving, quick to help, generous with his time, involved in what they did, and supportive of their aspirations. To their children, he was a caring and attentive grandfather, present for important days and involved, even from a distance. His many students and colleagues remember him as an enthusiastic, hardworking, and dedicated teacher and mentor.  Jorgy was a devoted friend to young and old, opening his home and heart to all.


Paul was born in 1925 to Reverend Ottar and Alma Jorgensen in Minneapolis, and raised there and in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In the closing years of World War II, after high school he joined the Navy Air Corps where he trained as a pilot and attended Duke University. After the war, Paul continued his education at Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, and completed his bachelors degree at the University of Minnesota. He earned masters degrees in mathematics and education from the University of Colorado and the University of Wisconsin.  Paul completed his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 1968.  He began his career teaching mathematics at Northfield High School, traveled with friends on motorcycles through post-war Europe, and, in 1957, began teaching mathematics and teacher education at Carleton College in Northfield.  During his 33-year career at Carleton, he served as Director of Summer Programs and Associate Dean of the College, and for a few years also taught math education courses at St. Olaf College. In 1987, he retired from Carleton College as Professor of Educational Studies and Mathematics.


Accompanying Paul throughout his life was his sweetheart, Joann.  They met in Colorado in 1954, were married shortly thereafter in 1955, and lived together in Northfield for almost 62 years. He traveled with his family during sabbatical years in Denmark, California, Florida, and Georgia. After Paul’s retirement, the two of them built a white pine log cabin on Deer Lake in northern Minnesota, where for almost thirty years they spent most summers.  That cabin has been a treasured gathering spot for children and grandchildren summer after summer.  In their retirement years, Paul and Joann also traveled extensively with friends and relatives to England and Scotland, Scandinavia, Iceland, Hawaii, Greece, Mexico, the Caribbean and many other destinations around the country.  They spent many weeks visiting their children and grandchildren in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Alaska. Paul and Joann built a large and close circle of friends in Northfield and at Deer Lake, and enjoyed many days and evenings together with them, sharing a meal, playing cards, and fishing and boating on Deer Lake. They have been unofficial grandparents to children in the neighborhood and beyond, making them a part of their extended family. Paul and Joann are devoted members of St. John’s Lutheran Church; the church community has played a significant role in their life together.


Paul was active in the Northfield community as a member of the Lions Club and board member of the Friends of the Northfield Public Library. Paul was active in scouting, planning “Jorgy tours” to the Twin Cities and helping lead adventure backpacking and climbing trips to mountains in the west.


Paul is survived by his loving wife Joann; three children, Eric (Amy), David (Cathryn), and Anne; and 5 grandchildren, Kirsten, Peter, Erin, Kaia, and Thomas.


A memorial service will be held on February 18, 2017, at 2 PM with a reception to follow at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield.  Memorial gifts may be made to St. John’s Lutheran Church, Friends of the Northfield Public Library, or the Paul S. Jorgensen Memorial Fund at Carleton College.


Arrangements are with the Benson & Langehough Funeral Home.




  1. Sarah Howes

    What a joy to know Paul Jorgensen–a dear man and a good friend. I rarely saw him in person but he inspired me with his daily courage and good nature. Also important was knowing the strength and happiness of his and Joann’s marriage. What grace and commitment Joann showed. God bless and keep and comfort each of you during this profound transition. With love, Sarah and Bill

  2. Rest in peace my mentor, teacher, inspiration, and friend.

    Dr. Jorgensen was one of two mathematics education professors who shaped my development as I pursued secondary mathematics teacher certification, and a mathematics degree, at St. Olaf College, 1976-1980. He was at the forefront of mathematics education in Minnesota at that time, and, together with a renewed pedagogical emphasis on problem solving across the profession, he helped open my eyes to aspects of teaching and learning that I’d not previously learned nor experienced.

    I still use today several of the problems Jorgie brought to our methods class, a new problem each day, when I was at St. Olaf. He supervised my student teaching experience at New Ulm HS (fall 1979), and I still have the hand-scribbled note he wrote on one of the plans I used when he visited. In that plan, I’d outlined everything I wanted to accomplish during the class he was observing, primarily from a “here’s what I’m going to do” perspective. In the margin of my plan, he wrote, “And now start teaching!”

    That directive, that challenge, was a significant factor motivating my early years as a teacher, and it resounds today, in my daily interactions with undergrad Calculus students here at Illinois State University. His comment, essentially, told me that teaching was not a one-directional activity. Teaching was a two-way street. Yes, I needed plans, ideas, materials, and resources, but more significantly, I needed the students! My job, the focal point of my work, was to motivate and provoke students to engage in the content and concepts at hand, and to get them to reveal what they were thinking and doing, to share what puzzled them and what frustrated them, and to reflect on what they’d realized and learned through our activities. Today that happened in Calc I just as I plan for it to happen most days I’m with students.

    Thanks Jorgie, for your model of what to do and who to be. I could never repay you for the lessons you helped me learn. Every day, you help me help my students learn.

  3. Dick Shumway

    Paul was a delightful neighbor, a mentor for me in high school chess club, we got our Ph Ds in mathematics education a year apart, shared seminars at the U of M, and were mathematics colleagues together, me at Ohio State and he at Carleton College, and almost, the both of us at Carleton in the early 80s. We frequently chatted about mathematics education before and after we both retired about 3 years apart. His reassurance of my retiring at 50 was, “If you don’t know how long the meal will last, start with desert.” That was typical of our interaction over the many, many years we shared conversations, always with good humor and deep insights. So Paul made important contributions to my childhood, my education, my professional career, and my retirement. Paul, thank you from the bottom of my heart. -Dick Shumway

  4. Bob Fliegel, '61

    I had been a poor math student in high school, but I chanced taking Paul’s Elementary Analysis freshman year (1957-58). He not only helped me grasp what had been elusive for so long, but he also made math non-threatening, even appealing. I have fond memories of his classes and of his friendly smile.

  5. Daryl Burbank-Schmitt, '69

    Dr. Jorgensen taught my first Carleton math course in the fall of 1965, Mathematics 11, differential calculus. He was a terrific teacher who could present a topic clearly, in as many ways as necessary. Years later later he laughed heartily when I reminded him that he had once tried to write with chalk over his shoulder, not too successfully, while he watched the class. Truly a teacher’s teacher.

  6. Tom Weaver '69

    Paul was my advisor as a student teacher in biology at Northfield High School my senior year in spring 1969 – Always encouraging and stimulating, I fondly remember his warm and patient manner, meeting up at Soville Hall, back in those years – I plan to drive down to Northfield for the memorial celebration on Feb 18 to share in the storytelling and remembrance of this fine mentor!

  7. Karma J. Nilsen

    Paul was my favorite cousin. He was loved very much by my parents and my siblings and will be missed. We have enjoyed many happy times with Paul and Joann in Northfield and at Deer Lake in their beautiful cabin. My husband, Bob, and I send our condolences to his wife, Joann, and to his children and grandchildren. Sadly we will not be able to attend his memorial service, but two of my siblings will be there. Rest in peace, Paul.

  8. Tricia F-Yanz

    I spent the last year with Paul and his wife Joann, a family I fell in love with! Paul was a wonderful man! He loved his head scratched! He was so soft, his hair was just like a ducks behind! I called him my baby duck! I will never forget what you two bestowed in me! I’m a better person because I was Paul cg! Never forget you , baby duck! I love you!!! RIP Jorgy!

  9. Kathryn Jarvinen

    Paul and Joann were our neighbors in Northfield. My husband, Dick, and Paul were colleagues in the Mathematics Department at Carleton College. The Jorgensens welcomed us to our home on 5th Street and became dear friends. Paul exuded joy with his work and family. Both Paul and Joann were a wonderful presence in our lives. Our boys, Caleb and Craig could be found at their home frequently. Eric, David and Anne filled the roles of big brother and big sister for Caleb and Craig. They inherited sweaters and a pair of Leiderhosen from the Jorgensen’s attic. Many cups of coffee in the kitchen next door are fond and warm memories. Paul was truly a kind and generous man. An example of a life well lived. RIP.

  10. Bill Huyck

    Jorgy, A good teacher. A good colleague. A good man. A good friend.

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