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In Focus with Larry Jensen

Larry JensenThe skinny: Born and raised in Memphis, “I’ve never lived anyplace else,” he graduated from M.C. Williams High School (now Germantown High) in 1970. He earned a journalism degree from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) in 1974. He’s 60, and he’s the President and CEO of Commercial Advisors LLC and has served on the Methodist Healthcare Foundation board for about a year.

The family: He and his wife have two daughters and a son.

The work: He worked through college reporting for The Commercial Appeal, covering junior varsity, high school and small college sports. “I enjoyed it and had a great time. But I eventually decided that that’s not how I wanted to make a living.” He’s worked in real estate in one form or another since 1975.

The heart of the matter: Just about everything he does flows from his desire to serve others. “It all comes back to how we answer the question asked of Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Part of our call in life is to engage with other people, with our neighbors. We have a privilege and a responsibility to address the needs of our neighbors. That’s a core value of Methodist and that’s what I like about what they’re doing.”

The inspiration: “I’m one genera­tion removed from a cotton shack in Arkansas. My grandmother was a divorced mother of nine children in rural Arkansas. She never owned a car or a home. She was an Avon lady. She called me ‘Laddy K’ and she always said ‘you can be anything you want to be.’ She encouraged me to shoot for the stars. She died in 1987 with $1,100 in the bank. But Sharpe Planetarium is named after her, Lida Gammill Sharpe.”

The legacy: He says his grandmother’s determination and perseverance combined with the kindness of friends and neighbors helped members of his family make lives for themselves, including his mom, who was able to go to school and become a nurse. “It happens all the time. Someone steps in and helps them out of that poverty cycle by loving them and caring for them. I’m the beneficiary of that.”

The faith and health connection: His Christian faith is a big part of who he is, so it’s no surprise that he’s attracted to the idea behind the Methodist Healthcare Center of Excellence in Faith and Health and all of its initiatives. “Sometimes we take ourselves apart too much. We put ourselves in these drawers. Spiritual life is as important as physical life. If someone is loving you and caring for you, there is healing that comes from that. Doing healthcare work through the church is just a good idea.”

The Methodist mission: He serves on the board, he says, because Methodist lives out the message of the Gospels, in everything from maintaining its urban presence to the Congregational Health Network to the new 38109 Project. “If you have someone caring about you as a person, that buoys hope. The world is a tough place. There are lots of issues that tear our hearts apart. You’ve got to give people the opportunity to receive with dignity. That’s part of what Methodist is trying to do.”