BLOOMINGTON — One of the most popular workers on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus is known for having an ever-present smile, being socially savvy, working as a scientist and having the ability to cheer people up when they're down.
He even has his own Facebook page. But he refused to answer questions from a reporter. Perhaps a cat's got his tongue.
You won't find him on the payroll. He was part of a package deal.
When IWU hired Eric Jensen, the university got more than a president. Along with him came first lady Elizabeth Jensen and “first dog” Calvin.
You might find Calvin walking around the Eckley Quadrangle in costume on Halloween with a wagon of candy. You might find him welcoming new students at “Becoming a Titan.” You might find him in the dog lab, working as a canine scientist with psychology students.
One day last week, you would have found him in the President's House, hosting Between Exams Barks and Beverages for students with his friend Piper, a fellow dog scientist who lives with Michael Gorman, senior web developer for IWU.
Calvin has become so much of the IWU scene, he's even featured on this year's Christmas card.
Junior Aaron Kahn, a music education major from Glenview, said, “The biggest thing I miss from home is not having a dog.”
Then he met Calvin.
“He's really calming,” said Kahn. “College can get real stressful. To have a friend who will always smile at you is a good thing to have.”
Kahn is part of “Calvin's crew,” a group of students who walk Calvin from time to time.
Elizabeth Jensen recalled a student asking about becoming a part of the crew.
“When I told her it was $5 a walk, she got very quiet, then said, 'Oh, you pay us,' ” Jensen recalled with a laugh.
Laurence Henderson, a senior in environmental studies from Peoria Heights, recently stopped by for an unscheduled visit with Calvin.
“I was leaving the library, stressed out, and … I needed a smiling face to cheer me up,” said Henderson.
Kahn sums up the feeling by saying, “Everyone needs Calvin time.”
Calvin loves being petted and chasing squirrels, but his life on campus isn't all play and no work.
He takes part in experiments in the psychology research lab that look at how dogs think, interact, exercise self-control and make decisions. Computer touch screens are used and the dogs get a treat if their wet noses touch the right spot.
“He's a very good boy. He loves science,” said assistant psychology professor Ellen Furlong, who runs the lab. “He's very socially savvy. He knows how to play the students.”
Senior Zach Silver, a psychology and music major from Vernon Hills, said Calvin is “always a lot of fun to have in the lab.”
“He's probably the most excited to do science,” said Silver. “Motivation is not a problem.”
The Jensens adopted Calvin through Safe Hands Animal Rescue, a group that gets dogs from high-kill shelters, when they were living in Minnesota. Elizabeth Jensen said he appears to be part golden retriever.
Katherine Henebry, a junior in environmental studies and business marketing from Springfield, said, “The softness of his fur gets 10 out of 10 from me.”
As students milled about the president's house, laughing, snacking, drinking hot chocolate or cider, some sitting on the floor, petting Calvin and Piper, Elizabeth Jensen said, “It's more like a home on days like this.”
The mother of two grown children and a former middle-school teacher said, "Because of being a mom, I know how stressful this time is."
Senior Jade Molln of Toulon, who studies psychology and plays softball at IWU, said, “I love that President Jensen and his wife open up their home for us.”
Molln said being in a home instead of another academic building was relaxing and provided “that last little support you need to get you through finals.”