by J.O. Parker
Dr. Clark Jensen, O.D., a long-time Grinnell optometrist, will perform his last eye exam on Christmas Eve morning.
Dr. Clark, owner and operator of Jensen Optometrists, PLLC, is retiring after 44.5 years in the eye healthcare business.
His daughter, Dr. Whitney Jensen, O.D., is taking over the reins of the business and is the third generation Jensen to do so.
“This is the third generation,” Dr. Clark said of his daughter. “You don’t have that happen often.”
Dr. Whitney is a 2012 graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis College of Optometry. She spent three years working in Des Moines before joining her father in the family business in July 2015.
Dr. Whitney said her dad is not only a great optometrist, he is a caring father, husband, community leader, educator, philanthropist, and most importantly, a friend to so many people throughout his career.
“I’m honored to be his daughter, colleague, teammate, and mentee,” noted Dr. Whitney. “I hope to carry on the legacy of Jensen Optometrists for years to come with as much pride, knowledge, compassion, and integrity as my dad has. I have big shoes to fill. He will be sorely missed!”
Dr. Clark’s career has taken him from Indianola to Oregon to Grinnell to South Africa then back to Grinnell. He spent 41.5 years in Grinnell serving patients from a five-county area and beyond at the family-owned business founded by his dad, the late Dr. Earl Clark.
He spent three years (1985 – 1988) as a senior lecture and Director of Optometry Clinics at the University of the North in Sovenga, South Africa. He learned about the South Africa opportunity from an article he read in an optometry journal.
“The optometry department was new and they were coming up short on staff and having a tough time filling positions,” he said.
Dr. Clark said he had always thought he might like to teach and so he and his wife, Annie, decided to accept the opportunity and move with their children from Grinnell to South Africa.
“One of the main courses I taught to incoming students was on contact lens,” said Dr. Clark. “What they are, how they work and how to fit them.”
His main focus has been medical eye care, diagnose and treatment of eye disease, eye exams, contacts and eyewear and more.
When asked what he had enjoyed the most about his long career, Dr. Clark said, “The relationships I have built with all the patients I’ve served through the years.”
Dr. Clark estimates that he saw 2,500 patients on average each year until cutting back in recent years to two days a week. That is roughly 100,000 plus eye exams during that time frame.
Dr. Clark grew up in Grinnell and graduated from Grinnell High School in 1969. He attend Simpson College, where he played football for one year and ran track and field for two years, before enrolling in Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. It was at Pacific that he finished his undergrad studies in Health Services and went on to earn his Doctor of Optometry degree in 1976. He returned to Grinnell and joined the family business in June 1976.
Dr. Clark met his wife, Annie, who was born and raised in Diagonal, Iowa, while he was attending Simpson.
“I was playing football at Simpson and just finished two-a-day practices,” he recalled. “I needed to get out of town, so I decided to attend the Iowa State Fair.”
It was through a mutual friend that Dr. Clark met Annie at the fair that year. The couple started dating soon afterwards and were married in 1974.
Dr. Clark and Annie have been married 46 years. They have two children, Dr. Whitney and Geoff. Geoff, who is the medical sales field, and his wife, Kyndi, have four children and reside in Urbandale. Dr. Whitney is married to Heath Glienke.
Dr. Clark is a member of the Iowa Optometric Association, American Optometric Association, a Fellow of American Academy of Optometry, past President of the Heart of America Chapter of the American Academy of Optometry, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH)/Iowa, and is the Iowa Representative on the Vision Service Plan Regional Professional Committee. Most recently has passed his examination to become Board Certified by the American Board of Optometry.
In 1997, Dr. Clark was appointed Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Pacific University College of Optometry. He was Contributing Editor of Optometry Today, a professional journal, and has published articles in Optometry Today, The Contact Lens Spectrum, and The South African Optometrist.
Founding of Jensen Optometrists
Dr. Earl Clark grew up on a farm in Audubon, Iowa. Dr. Clark said his father didn’t see a future in farming. It just happened that three of his uncles were optometrist and they encouraged him to enter the eye healthcare field.
After graduating from Audubon High School in 1939, Dr. Earl attended Iowa State University before being inducted into the U.S. Army in 1942, where he served in the military police in Europe and Japan.
He then attended South Dakota State University and Northern Illinois College in Chicago, where he graduated with a Doctor of Optometry degree in 1948.
He began his practice in Newton with his uncle, Dr. Ben Jensen, and on April 1, 1949, established the Jensen Optometric Clinic in Grinnell.
“The Grinnell area was under served for eye care,” noted Dr. Clark of his father.
Dr. Earl opened his practice one block south of the current location at 935 Broad St., Grinnell in 1949. In 1955, he built a professional office building in what is now used as the eye eyewear sales and service department at Jensen Optometrists.
In 1968, Dr. Earl expanded the business one door south in what is now the waiting room, exam room and offices. The building formerly housed a children’s clothing business.
The eye care business expand a third time in 1988 when Dr. Clark and his brother, Dr. Scott, who joined the family business in 1977, purchased a third building together. Dr. Clark was still in Africa at the time.
The building, which has several exam rooms, was formally Wellhouse Photography Studio and later the offices of Grinnell Chiropractor, Dr. Brian Brown.
Dr. Earl and his wife, Gwen, raised three sons, Clark, Scott and Tracy and one daughter, Carol.
Dr. Earl spent 40 years serving customers before passing away from cancer in July 1989.
Dr. Scott left the family business in 2008 and is currently serving as an optometrist in the Atlanta area.
New Service Coming
A new service coming to Jensen Optometrist is an eye spa. The service include facials, face waxing and eyebrow and eyelash tinting. Dr. Whitney said she will also be doing dry eye treatments and management service in the near future.
Joining Dr. Whitney in seeing patients is Dr. Joseph Jahner, O.D., a native of Knoxville and 2020 graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis College of Optometry. He joined the Jensen Optometrist staff in October.
Down the Road
Dr. Clark said he and Annie will continue to call Grinnell home, but plan to winter in Florida in the new year. The couple also plans to spend time with family, travel and explore new places and new things.
“I have always wanted to travel,” he said.
Dr. Clark admitted that he may stop at the office on occasion to check in and see how things are going. In fact, he is keeping his desk available just in case.
But for now, Dr. Clark said following his last eye exam, “I plan to quietly slip out of here.”