Remembering John C. Rogers
by Krishna Dhir, Berry College
John Calvin Rogers, III, 67, of Morro Bay, California, passed away suddenly after a brief illness on February 13, 2012. I had expected to see him again. My last conversation with him was late in January. We had discussed his experiences in Hungary and my own impending trip to those haunts. He told me of his plans to travel through the summer, arriving in Budapest in May. I, too, was planning to be in Budapest the same time. We talked of getting together—him, his wife, Marti, my wife, Sheila, and me—at Budapest's famed Vörösmarty Ter in May 2012.
I met John over three decades ago, while transitioning from the corporate sector to the academe. To assimilate into the academic culture, I turned to the Decision Sciences Institute. I met John when I attended a Western Regional meeting for the very first time. John was a consummate ambassador of the Decision Sciences Institute and of the Western Regional Subdivision (WDSI) in particular. A number of members attribute the quality of their association with the Institute to John's role in the organization and his encouragement. Michael Gallagher, former provost of erstwhile Mesa State College, now known as the Colorado Mesa University, states, "John and I first worked together in the 1970s at the University of Arkansas, and then again in Colorado until 2003. He encouraged my involvement in WDSI and to take a larger role both regionally and nationally, which was very rewarding. I considered him one of my very best friends."
Shannon Taylor also met John Rogers in the mid-1980s. Both were professors in the College of Business at Montana State University. Shannon says, "At that time we also became active participants in the Western Decision Sciences Institute. I was president of WDSI in 1988, and John was president in 1990. I observed John's leadership skills during those years. He and I served the Decision Sciences Institute at both the national and Western regional levels. He ranks as one of the most politically savvy administrators with whom I have worked."
In whatever John did, his involvement was total. To his friends, he was fiercely loyal. He created opportunities for those who were close to him. In his association, we all thrived. His friends became my friends, in the most profound sense of the word. Terrell Williams, who served as president of WDSI during 1992-93, met John at Utah State University. Terry states, "John Rogers was a friend of mine. But John was more than that. He was an inspiration. He was a person of complete integrity and deep loyalty. I went to Utah State University in 1968 right out of my Ph.D. program. John joined a short time after. We immediately hit it off, and John took me under his wing. He was already an accomplished researcher and publisher, and I was a raw neophyte. He taught me and prodded me along to become professionally credible before he left Utah State University to go to Montana State University. He got me deeply involved in WDSI, and he was largely responsible for my becoming its president. His work as program chair and president was an example to me. He helped me get to know people in DSI that I might never have met without his connections. He was an influence, a friend, and a mentor to many."
As provost, Michael Gallagher recruited John in an administrative role to lead the business administration program at Mesa State College. Gallagher writes, "He was always a professional no matter which side of the desk he sat on and was always 'up' with his humor and truly unique take on the world." His personal message to John reads: "I'm going to miss you big guy, especially all those late night phone calls over the years just to chat about work or life in general. I'm so glad I knew you and was one of your many colleagues, but most of all, your friend. I already miss you but have lots of fond memories and know that you're in a better place."
On John's years at Utah State University, Michael Parent writes, "When John joined our faculty at Utah State University he brought with him considerable energy. John really enjoyed his profession and shared his passion with others openly and without any expectation. He was the kind of colleague with whom one remained friends even after several career moves and many years had elapsed between visits. John really wanted his colleagues to experience the same rewards he did from teaching, research and service." Shannon Taylor strikes a similar note, "John was always a source of very solid professional analysis. He gave me many options to think about when it came to my career choices. He was a friend and valued colleague. I was fortunate to watch him at work and play."
Terry Williams, too, attests to John's steadfast loyalty to his friends, "After he left Utah State, we kept in close touch professionally and personally, continuing to research and publish together. More moves took John to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and me to Cal State and on to Western Washington University. We finished our careers at those schools, and through it all we kept in close touch. We saw our families and our careers grow over time. John gave my wife and me the honor of acting as contingent guardians of their children. John was always instrumental in getting me to do things and to go places. Trips that we made together to Hungary, France, and Scotland would have never happened without his motivation. The trip we took with our wives with John at the wheel driving on the "wrong" side of the road from London to Sterling, Scotland, in a tiny Ford Fiesta was an experience not to be missed. John's wife and mine became fast friends on that trip. John and I worked closely together on many research projects that I would not have pursued without his encouragement and expertise. I will sorely miss John, as will many others. I've shed more than a few tears over him, and I am grateful for our association and friendship over 40 years. Yes, John Rogers was a friend of mine, and I'll never forget him. DSI, its members, and I are much better for our association with him."
John's world was much larger than his immediate surroundings and included far reaches of the world. He enjoyed experiencing a variety of cultures, traveling to remote parts of the globe, and seeing the world as a way of learning. "I will see you in Budapest," he had told me as we signed off on our last conversation. He had a special love for Hungary. When I was getting ready to visit the University of Pannonia in Veszprem, west of Budapest, for the first time, I turned to John for an orientation to Hungarian academic and social life. I knew of his deep knowledge of the Hungarian culture. His involvement with Hungary started when László Muraközy of Debrecen University visited him in San Luis Obispo. László notes, "I met John for the first time in San Luis Obispo at Cal Poly's Orfalea College of Business School in 1993. He was the dean of the school and I came from a faraway university located in the eastern part of Hungary. I was charged by my university to build a business school. We had no traditions in this field. That was the reason why I was in the U.S., to learn as much as possible about the best practice. John had a strategic view of making Cal Poly's business school more international. So, he was interested in the cooperation. That was the beginning. The following years, step by step, we developed closer and closer cooperation and some exchange programs, too. He visited Debrecen year after year, helped us to find the best way, and taught courses to our Hungarian students. He was our Fulbright professor for a year as well. Our colleagues visited San Luis Obispo and I had the opportunity to participate in some very interesting conferences of the Western Decision Science Institute. I learned a lot from John. He was an outstanding professor, but for me, his leadership ability and strategic thinking was even more impressive."
It was always a joy to be around John. He had a wonderful sense of humor and a zest for life. Shannon recalls, "John and I played in a weekly poker game during the school year. We had a group of four or five business professors who would convene each week in my backyard shop. John was an excellent poker player and frequently went home with the most money." And Michael Parent reminisces, "John visited me one summer in the mountains of Wyoming. Marti and kids had gone on a horseback ride, and there were a few chores to do, among them chopping wood. John was curious about the task and well equipped with strength and athletic ability having played lacrosse in college. He had never chopped wood before and offered to provide the refreshment later if I'd let him have a go. It's actually a chore I quite enjoy. There are no rules in chopping wood, save hit the log and not one's toes. And, chopping wood is thirsty work. So, I handed John the ax while enjoying a brief Mark Twain meets Robert Frost moment. It might have been his enthusiasm, perhaps too much, or maybe the 7,500 foot elevation. John soon knew what the old timers meant by the first heat from a winter's wood supply. He joined me on the porch: five cold ones still in their plastic loops and a traveler in hand. I was reminded then as now about Frost's admonition to match one's avocation and vocation as John surely did:
Only where love and need are one,
"And, I can imagine John grinning on the way to his next assignment, five cold ones in their plastic loops and a traveler in hand."