Fundraiser, scholarship keeps memories of Cascade grad alive

Brett Jensen came before them.

Before Michael Cizek joined the University of Florida’s “Fightin’ Gator” marching band, before Carl Manhardt went to Washington State University to study pharmacy, and before Matthew Butler decided to play baseball for California Lutheran University, another standout student went off to college from Cascade High School.

Cizek, Manhardt and Butler are among Cascade graduates who have been helped by the Brett Akio Jensen Scholarship Foundation. It awards annual scholarships in memory of Jensen. The 2001 Cascade graduate died May 7, 2002, in a fall from his fraternity house near the University of Washington.

At Cascade, Jensen had a straight-A record. He was ASB president, and a football and track athlete.

“Brett made everyone around him better,” said retired teacher Mike Therrell, who taught government and history at Cascade. “People talk about all his accomplishments, and there were many. Everyone around him accomplished great things. He motivated them. He inspired them.”

Therrell plans to participate Aug. 15 in the seventh annual Brett Jensen Memorial Walk and Run, a fundraiser for the scholarship program. It will start at 9 a.m. in north Everett’s Legion Memorial Park. Runners and walkers will cover a 3.6-mile route overlooking the waterfront.

In 12 years, the Brett Akio Jensen Scholarship Foundation has given out more than $100,000 to outstanding Cascade seniors and other area students through the Rotary Club of Everett-Port Gardner.

This year’s $7,500 Brett Akio Jensen scholarship through Rotary went to Cascade senior Ngoc-Thao Nguyen. She will attend UW, and plans to major in chemistry with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.

Butler, who will soon leave for Cal Lutheran near Los Angeles, received this year’s $5,000 Brett Jensen scholarship at Cascade. His older brother, Brad Butler, graduated with Jensen. “Beyond how successful he was, what really stands out is how well he treated other people,” said Butler, who also aims for a medical career.

Therrell remembers Brett Jensen showing up every day for football practice after having knee surgery his senior year that kept him from playing. “He was there to support his friends and teammates,” Therrell said.

Cizek, a Brett Jensen scholarship winner in 2014, is headed back to the University of Florida next week and will miss the walk. He never knew Brett, but has gotten to know his parents, Don and Jan Jensen. “Now Don and I see each other about every time I’m in town. We’ll go out to Patty’s Eggnest and grab breakfast,” he said.

Don Jensen was a counselor at Cascade before retirement. He has been in touch with many scholarship recipients. “They let us know how they’re doing,” he said. “Steven Gallardo is doing his mission in Albania. Carl Manhardt comes over to the house all the time. Brett was his Bruin Buddy when Carl was in fifth grade.”

Brett Jensen’s younger sister, Megan, is now a psychologist in the Snohomish School District. She and her dad have run the course in preparation for the Aug. 15 event, which will include a silent auction, refreshments and a clown.

Don Jensen doesn’t avoid the hard lessons of his son’s death after a drinking party at the Pi Kappa Phi house. He believes fraternities need adult supervision like college sororities have. In 2014, after another UW student fell from a fraternity, he and his wife wrote a letter to the editor published in The Herald. “We hate to see another family endure the pain and sorrow of this senseless tragedy,” they wrote.

Long before his son was at UW, he was in a fraternity at WSU. “It seems the drinking has increased,” Jensen said. “You give them this big house, 18- and 19-year-olds. Having an adult would make a difference.”

The Jensens’ tragedy is a caution to parents now sending kids off to college. And their scholarship program is a way to carry Brett’s positive legacy forward.

“It’s wonderful the students appreciate this,” Don Jensen said. “It’s a way to remember Brett. He loved life. Carpe diem, seize the day, that was his motto. It says a lot about who he was. You couldn’t ask for a better son.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Scholarship walk

The Brett Jensen Memorial Walk and Run will be held at 9 a.m. Aug. 15 at Legion Memorial Park, 145 Alverson Blvd., Everett. The 3.6-mile loop goes south through Grand Avenue Park and back. Cost is $25; all money raised supports the Brett Akio Jensen Scholarship Foundation. Sign up online (by Thursday to get a T-shirt) at https://brettjensen.wordpress.com

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