Rogers remembers good times

University President Jesse Rogers gets water dumped on him in an effort to raise money for Lou Gehrig's disease. Rogers took the challenge from officials at West Texas A&M and passed the challenge along to Angelo State University. Photo by Bradley Wilson.

University President Jesse Rogers gets water dumped on him in an effort to raise money for Lou Gehrig’s disease. Rogers took the “Ice Bucket” challenge from officials at West Texas A&M and passed the challenge along to Angelo State University President Brian May. Photo by Bradley Wilson.

One of the university president’s fondest memories is that of a small prairie dog park that used to be part of campus.

“I would sit in the window sill while I would be eating something on the lab bench,” University President Jesse Rogers said. “My students would be in there studying and waiting. Beneath the south window that’s between Bolin science hall and the D. L. Ligon coliseum was a prairie dog town.”

Rogers explained that the little prairie dog town was one of the campus’s biggest attractions, and it’s one of his favorite memories of what the campus was like.

“I know that sounds like an old man reminiscing but that tells you how much the campus has changed,” Rogers said. “People would come far and wide to see Midwestern State University’s prairie dog town.”

Fast-forward 48 years, and the former chemistry teaching is preparing for his retirement as the university president. His career path has changed numerous times. He has worn many hats as a faculty member at the campus, starting out as a chemistry and physics professor, interim president, vice president for academic affairs, and then finally university president.

Rogers said one of his favorite moments during his career was when he was a chemistry teacher. He said that some of his best memories are from students he taught who come back and visit him.

“They are orthopedic surgeons, one’s a professor at Harvard, one’s a trauma surgeon,” Rogers said. “When they come by and tell me that I somehow made a difference in their life, I feel like I’ve lived my life well. I feel like all the mistakes I made go away and all the good decisions I’ve made really did pay off. We don’t all get that opportunity.”

In 1967 Rogers began his career as a professor on campus. Even with his promotions as the interim president and vice president, Rogers still taught a chemistry class every semester. He said when he became president he had to give up teaching because of his hectic schedule and time on the road.

“I’m not ever going to quit missing getting to know students like I did when I taught them,” Rogers said. “I gave that up in the year 2000 but I will always cherish those years.”

Rogers said his experience as university president has helped him develop and enhance his people skills and his ease around others.

“I was probably a little too dismissive, and a little too busy and self-involved,” Rogers said. “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to work with people one-on-one. I think I’ve learned a lot more about people and interacting with people and I’ve learned more about sensitivity.”

Rogers said during his time as president, he’s gotten to know the school’s main donors and contributors. He says when he retires one of the main things he will miss is the close interaction with the university’s benefactors and contributors who have now become his close friends.

“This institution cannot be what it is without really significant donors,” Rogers said. “You’ve got to learn a donor’s wishes and what they are really interested in and talk to them about it and develop a trust in the university. And, when I’m dealing with a person that we’re asking $5 million of, trying to build that trust is really important. As a university, we live in a very generous community. They have given us millions of dollars. We could not be doing a lot of things if it weren’t for those donors.”

Rogers said one of the biggest regrets he has during his time was falling out of touch with students and faculty during his presidency. He said his time as president has kept him extremely busy.

“I started out knowing all of the faculty. We were a small enough university I knew every faculty member on this campus,” Rogers said. “Particularly while I was the Provost when I hired most of the faculty, I knew them well, I was close to them. As president my time in fundraising in Austin and just the paperwork I deal with has taken me away from the faculty and the students.”

Rogers’s advice for the new university president is to not only focus on just the practical part of the job. He said the new president should also take time to get to know not only the faculty but also the students.

“Basically get out there,” Rogers said. “Walk across the campus. Talk to students about their major; ask them how things are going. And ask them, ‘what do you want to tell me, what do we need to do for this place?”

Rogers explained that when he first came to the campus, he never expected to one day become the university’s president. He said although he is looking forward to his retirement in August and spending time with his granddaughter, he will miss working with faculty, donors, and students.

“When I shake your hand when you walk across that stage up there I see what this institution is doing,” Rogers said. “I know that I, along with the deans, faculty, and the other vice presidents, have a lot to do with young people’s lives. I would say it’s a stressful job, but it is the most rewarding job that I’ve had here.

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