Courtesy University Relations
Eller and UA alumnus James E. Rogers, a prominent philanthropist, media entrepreneur and education advocate, died June 14 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
Rogers was a highly regarded lawyer and businessman who built a legacy around the development of financial institutions and also radio and television stations. He shared his success through financial support to higher education institutions and is the namesake of the UA’s James E. Rogers College of Law.
“All of us in the Wildcat family mourn the death of our alumnus James E. Rogers, sending our condolences and comfort to his family and international network of friends,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart.
“Jim was a man of extraordinary vision and foresight, fueled by passion and energy and possessed of the acumen and skill to make things happen. His counsel was wise, his straightforwardness distinctive and refreshing, and his clarity of purpose remarkable,” Hart said. “He was a great friend to education and to the University of Arizona, and his transformative gifts are an enduring demonstration of his desire to improve the lives of others.”
Rogers and his wife, Beverly, made several significant donations to higher education institutions, including the UA. When the Rogers pledge $115 million to the UA’s law college, it was the largest contribution ever made to a law school in the U.S. In 1998, the school was renamed the James E. Rogers College of Law.
The contribution came after his son, Perry Rogers, who was studying at the law school, asked his father to buy a new couch for the lobby. It was during that visit that James Rogers began to envision the school’s future, leading Rogers to begin working closely with the college to address unmet needs, especially given state budget cuts.
After that point, Rogers began making financial and other philanthropic contributions, including regular visits to the college, speaking with each entering class, sponsoring luncheons and connecting with faculty.
“Jim Rogers was a trusted adviser to deans and a powerful voice for the entire law school community, a mentor to countless students, and a lasting presence at the college he loved so much,” said Marc Miller, dean of the College of Law.
“Beyond his transformative gifts to the law school and the UA, Jim encouraged us to think bigger, to aspire to greatness, and to always remain open to the opportunities that change presents,” Miller said. “His support for education at all levels – and his leadership in bringing critical issues to public attention – was a true public service. He was a true friend, and his passing is an enormous loss for all of us.”
In addition to the law school, the James and Perry Rogers Plaza – located just south of the UA Second Street Garage – was named in his honor and in the name of his son, UA alumnus Perry Rogers.
“Mr. Rogers represents what makes this school so wonderful, alumni who deeply care about the school and the success of current students,” said Harry A. Aaron, president of the Student Bar Association at the UA and a third-year law student.
“Throughout my past two years, Mr. Rogers has visited the school, and often could be found informally talking to students and faculty,” Aaron said. “He has been a great supporter of the school, but more importantly a great advocate of the high quality education the University of Arizona passes down to students.”
Also named in his honor are James E. Rogers Way and the James E. Rogers Circle. When it was dedicated in 2005, James E. Rogers Way was meant to symbolize the significant contributions Rogers had made to the College of Law, the College of Fine Arts, the College and Social and Behavior Sciences, the Eller College of Management and the UA’s athletics programs.
Having graduated from Las Vegas High School in 1956, Rogers began his studies at the UA and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a degree in law. He later earned a master’s degree in law from the University of Southern California. Immediately after graduating from the UA, Rogers began practicing law in Las Vegas and, for a one-year term beginning in 1963, he served as a teaching fellow in the law school at the University of Illinois.
After working in the legal field for decades, he shifted his focus to the broadcasting and financial industries.
In 1971, Rogers founded the Valley Broadcasting Co. In 1979, he began operating the NBC affiliate KSNV-TV in Las Vegas. Rogers also founded and owned the Intermountain West Communications Co., which owns and operates more then a dozen television stations in the western U.S.
In 1981, Rogers became a Nevada National Bank board member and, in 1995, he founded the Community Bank of Nevada.
In addition to broadcasting and financial services, Rogers was deeply invested in advocating for education, particularly at the collegiate level.
After his prolific tenure in the legal and media fields, he went on to serve as the ninth chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education from 2005 to 2009 after having spent one year in the position on an interim basis.
Rogers won numerous awards and honors over his lifetime. He also held honorary degrees from institutions including the UA, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the University of Idaho. He also earned a listing by Time magazine as one of the top 12 philanthropists in the nation, having gifted or pledged more than $275 million to colleges and universities. In 2006, Rogers received the Paschal Murray Award for Outstanding Philanthropist from the Association for Fundraising Professionals.
Rogers served on numerous boards for organizations and institutions such as the New York University School of Law, the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, the University of New Mexico School of Law, the University of Southern California School of Law and the National Law Center in Tucson.
“Jim Rogers believed deeply in the power of ideas and education,” said Toni Massaro, Regents’ Professor, Milton O. Riepe Chair in Constitutional Law and Dean Emerita.
“Countless students and academic programs across our nation have soared because of Jim’s spectacular generosity and his formidable drive to make the world a better place,” Massaro said.
“Here at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, we not only have lost a remarkable alumnus and donor, but an intellectual partner and dear friend. Jim was a larger-than-life, one-of-a-kind man who opened many doors for others, and inspired others to do likewise.”
Rogers is survived by wife, Beverly, three children, Suzanne, of California; Kimberly, of Colorado; and Perry, of Nevada; and six grandchildren.
Top photo courtesy UA James E. Rogers College of Law.