Mary Bee Jensen

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Mary Bee Jensen

Mary Bee Jensen was born in Provo, Utah to Robert George and Mary Cuthbertson Bee. She graduated from Park College in Missouri with a bachelor's degree in biology, and later received a master's degree in recreation education from Brigham Young University.

Christmas Around the World 50th Anniversary, 2009
She began her career teaching in various high schools in Utah before joining the faculty of BYU’s College of Physical Education in 1952. She continued in that position for thirty-three years. Although she began by teaching square dancing, one of Jensen’s most significant achievements at BYU was founding and directing the International Folk Dancers in 1956. During the next 28 years she developed the program to a position of international prominence in the dance world. Beginning with the Folk Dancers’ first European tour in 1964, Jensen has directed 27 tours to Europe and two tours to the Far East. She led her students in concerts at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, and in international television performances seen in Bucharest, Moscow, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary.

Jensen was the co-founder of the National Folk Organization and was a member of the Worldwide Association for the Performing Artists Board of Advisors. She was an Honorary Congress Chair for the International Organization of Folk Art, and was the first American appointed to the World Congress as a delegate to the Council of International Organizations of Folklore Festivals (CIOFF). She served in this position for fourteen years and received the CIOFF Gold Award.

Jensen’s numerous awards include the Alumni Distinguished Service Award, the Karl G. Maeser Award for Teaching, the BYU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi’s Alumni Award, BYU’s Outstanding Woman Award, Outstanding Educator of America, and the National Dance Association Heritage Award. In 1990 she was invited back to BYU to present a Honored Alumni Speech as part of the University's Homecoming festivities. She was the Grand Marshall for BYU’s Homecoming Parade in 2006, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Utah Dance Education Organization, and received the Days of ‘47 Progress Award in the historic and creative art category.

In December 2009, Jensen was honored at the 50th Anniversary of “Christmas Around the World” for beginning the production. The following year, she was presented with the Franklin S. Harris Award in recognition of a lifetime of exceptional service and professional achievement as a dance educator and artist at BYU. Jensen was a speaker at the April 2010 College Convocation, where she encouraged graduates to "never give up."

She continues to be involved with international folk dance organizations and is actively connected to BYU’s Folk Dance program, where she has provided a legacy of immeasurable worth. At BYU and in her work advancing the discipline of folk dance internationally, her greatest gift is the powerful spirit of love she brings to each person with whom she comes in contact. Her life’s motto has been “the more you give, the more you receive in return.”

Stepping in for an injured dancer, 1983
In 2013, at the SCERA's annual "Evening of Stars" gala, Jensen was recognized for her extensive service to and efforts in the field of art. In 2015, she was one of the alumni highlighted by the College of Fine Arts and Communications for the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Harris Fine Arts Center.

In 2017, She celebrated her 100th birthday and was featured in the Daily Herald.

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