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Remembering Jack Rogers, Regents Professor and mycology mentor at WSU for six decades

Jack Rogers with specimen books
Emeritus Professor Jack Rogers, flips through a WSU collection of more-than-150-year-old books filled with specimens of fungi, in 2014. An internationally noted expert on fungi and a prolific collaborator and teacher, Rogers passed away in June 2021.

Regents Professor Emeritus Jack Rogers, a member of Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology for the past 62 years, died in June 2021 at age 83.

An internationally known expert in mycology, the study of fungi, and a passionate educator, Rogers leaves behind a legacy of involvement and inspiration.

“Jack was a one-man institution in our department, and will be sorely missed,” said Tim Murray, professor and chair of the Department of Plant Pathology.

Born in 1937, Rogers grew up in West Virginia and earned degrees at Davis and Elkins College and Duke University, going on to a doctorate in plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1963. That year, he joined the faculty of the College of Agriculture at WSU, working in plant pathology with additional involvement in forestry.

Over the next six decades, Rogers led fungi research and education at WSU, teaching courses in forest tree pathology and advanced mycology, and serving as a major professor and advisor for graduate and post-graduate students. Rising through academic ranks, he served as chair of the plant pathology department for more than a decade during the 1980s and ’90s.

Jack Rogers with leaf
Caretaker of WSU’s Charles Gardner Shaw Mycological Herbarium, Jack Rogers holds up one of its specimens, a fungus-bearing leaf.

Rogers also authored or helped write more than 230 scientific papers and two mycological books, and traveled the world on research and specimen-collecting trips, helping curate the university’s mycological herbarium. He earned many academic and society awards for his work and involvement, and was promoted to Regents Professor in 2007. Rogers also enjoyed longtime funding from the National Science Foundation for his research program over the course of more than 30 years.

His great passion was teaching, and Rogers mentored many students and faculty members over the years.

“One of the things that has impressed me about Jack was the impact he had on students who took his forest pathology class,” said Gary Chastager, a WSU plant pathologist and extension specialist. “Over the years, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of colleagues across the nation who took Jack’s class while they were at WSU. His passion for teaching has had a lasting impact.”

“Jack was a great teacher—the best I had at WSU,” said Bert Cregg, a 1983 WSU alumnus and now professor of tree physiology at Michigan State University. As Rogers’ student and then undergraduate teaching assistant, Cregg learned important fundamentals. “There is no substitute for looking at things under a microscope and drawing an organism’s structures.”

“Jack was a teacher when I began as a graduate student, and became a mentor, friend, and great supporter,” Murray said. “In addition to being a great scholar and teacher, he had a great sense of humor that endeared him to many.”

Retiring in 2013, Rogers remained a presence in the department, coming into the office most weekdays and often meeting colleague friends. In 2019, he was featured in the documentary movie “Fantastic Fungi,” directed by Louie Schwartzberg, sharing fungi’s potential to solve medical, therapeutic, and environmental challenges. The pandemic finally prevented his regular on-campus routine.

“Jack just always seemed like one of those chaps who would live forever but at least his spirit does,” said WSU plant pathologist Gary Grove.

Read Rogers’ full obituary here.