Rogers’ love for students carried him beyond the classroom

Haleigh Wallace

Professor Jesse Wallace Rogers works in the chemistry lab. Photo courtesy Waikun 1972.
Professor Jesse Wallace Rogers works in the chemistry lab. Photo courtesy Wai-kun, 1972.

Over the course of 40 years, University President Jesse Rogers’ love of science combined with his leadership and professionalism is remembered by all who worked with and studied under him.

Rogers has always had a love for science and chemistry.

Rogers said, “I am one of the few people who found a passion early on and stuck with it through grad school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in college, but I had some really good chemistry professors that helped influence my decision. My dad wanted me to be an engineer, so I started in chemical engineering.” Rogers said he changed his major though, on account of wanting to know more about chemistry.

He graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1963. Later, in 1967, Rogers earned his doctorate in chemistry from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, where he grew up.

During the fall of the same year, he began his teaching career. In just two years, Rogers would become the chairman of the chemistry department.

Norman Horner, retired biology professor and friend of Rogers, said, “Dr. Rogers and I came to Midwestern State University in the fall of 1967. We became friends the first year. He was an assistant professor of chemistry, and I was an instructor in biology.”

Outside of work, Horner and Rogers enjoy being outdoors hunting and fishing together.

“We have shared many great fishing and hunting trips through the years. He has remained a true friend for these 47 years,” Horner said.

Despite teaching in different departments, Rogers maintained a vested interest in what was happening in other areas of science.

Horner said, “Even though he was in chemistry and I was in biology, he was always interested in what was going on in biology. One time, we were talking about the movement of male tarantulas and I stated, ‘I sure would like to know what these guys were doing.’ He suggested putting transmitters on them so we could monitor their movement. It worked! The males were out looking for females. It turned out to be a great project for a graduate student.”

Rogers had a unique teaching style and a sense of humor that shines in the classroom.

Horner recalled one of his more famous experiments, “I remember another antic he pulled talking about gases. He had two balloons on each side of the desk. One balloon had helium and the other hydrogen. He would turn out all the lights, touch a flame to the helium balloon and get the normal pop you would get if you stuck a pin in a balloon. The hydrogen was a different story. It was an explosion that scared the life out of the students.”

Horner said Rogers would fall to the floor, take off his clean lab coat and replace it with one that was scorched and burned, mess up his hair, and put his glasses on crooked. After he turned the lights on, students observed what was left of their professor.



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