Jon Jorgensen '88


Russia with Love

Teacher Jon Jorgensen ’88, center,
with students in his Russian course at Erskine Academy in South China, Maine.
A graduate student, a lamp and lighting consultant, an entrepreneur and founder of Waterville’s own Jorgensen’s Café, a teacher and coach—Jon Jorgensen ’88 has done all of this and more.

Jorgensen teaches Russian and coaches JV baseball at Erskine Academy, an independent day school in South China, Maine. A native of Maine, Jorgensen began substitute teaching at Erskine Academy in 2004 before starting the Russian program at the school from the ground up the following year. “Although I hadn’t touched Russian since my graduate studies, the administration was supportive of the program, and it has just grown every year,” he said.

In the program’s first year, Jorgensen signed up 15 students for one course. Now enrollment has grown to 30 students and the program includes three levels of Russian and a study-abroad component. Jorgensen’s Russian classes made Erskine Academy one of the few high schools in the state that taught Russian language and perhaps the only Maine school to teach the language in full immersion.

But Jorgensen’s students do not learn only Russian. Said senior Ryan Ferguson, who was headed for the University of Southern Maine in the fall to study Russian and Russian literature, “Mr. Jorgensen asks us to think beyond our classroom. We not only study abroad, we leave class knowing our studies are just stepping stones to any number of adventures.” 

Beginning Colby with intentions to follow a premed track, Jorgensen changed course as a sophomore, fashioning a Russian and Soviet studies independent major with Professor Sheila McCarthy. He has certainly lived by the maxim “Try something new every day.”

“We can get so stuck in our ways and then realize we really wish we had taken the time to try that something different or challenging,” he said.
After Colby, Jorgensen studied in California while working as a lamp and lighting consultant and working to create a gourmet goods business. He returned to Maine to open Jorgensen’s Café on Main Street in Waterville, which retained the name after it was sold. Now Jorgensen is married, and he and his wife, Alison, a registered nurse, have two sons: Bjorn, 10, and Beck, 5.

“I’ve always been adaptive,” Jorgensen said. “It’s probably the best advice I can give to my students. Keep your eyes open, your ears open, and never be afraid to take calculated risks. That way you’ll never regret not having done something when the opportunity arose.”

Alexandra Desaulniers ’11