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Rock solid Gainesville State professor steps down

Rogers' passion for geology kept him teaching past retirement

POSTED: January 3, 2009 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Lewis Rogers has just finished teaching his final semester at Gainesville State College, ending a near 40-year career.

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OAKWOOD  Lewis Rogers has a thing for rocks.

After all, he's been teaching students how to tell the difference between metamorphic and sedimentary rocks for almost 40 years.

Rogers, chairman of Science, Engineering and Technology at Gainesville State College in Oakwood, officially retired four years ago, but that hasn't kept him from teaching geology part time.

Until now. He finished teaching his final semester at GSC earlier this month and is leaving his fossils behind.

Rogers laughs when he thinks about what first made him interested in geology. After all, the decision to go down the science path was randomly chosen when filling out an application to the Naval ROTC program.

"There's this long list of majors that you can choose," said Rogers. "So I went down this thing, and it said geology, and I thought this sounds good - picking up rocks, looking for oil - whatever geologists do."

Rogers didn't end up joining the Naval ROTC program, but he continued to stick with his original choice of geology while in college, even though it was picked purely by chance.

Before starting his 37-year teaching career at Gainesville State, Rogers taught eighth and ninth grades at Peeples Middle School in Jackson, Miss., and chemistry and physical science at Meridan Junior College in Meridan, Miss.

Rogers started teaching night classes part time at Gainesville State in 1971 and began working full time in 1974.

When he began, he didn't think about spending almost four decades at the school.

"I never did really think about it," said Rogers. "A lot of the people who work for me sometimes get very disgruntled, and I tell them that when you get to that point you need to look at what other opportunities you have out there. What I've always found is that this was better than the other alternatives."

After teaching at GSC for many years, Rogers started the Institute for Environmental and Spatial Analysis at the college, which was connected with the University of Georgia and North Georgia College and State University.

In August of 2001, Rogers was awarded a plaque in his honor that hangs in the lobby of the science building.

Seeing a plaque in your honor when walking into work every morning can be very rewarding, and a little odd, he said.

"Well, sometimes I start coming in and there will be a former student coming out, and they look at me like they've seen a ghost because they see that and think I've croaked," Rogers said.

Rogers admits that it's a little strange directing an institute that is named after him. "The intention was that I had retired, and so they thought I would go away," he said. "But I didn't go away."

Like most teachers who have taught for many years, Rogers has noticed some major changes in teaching since he started working in the field.

"Technology, I think, is the biggest thing," he said. "Back when I started, there were no hand-held calculators. We didn't have computers. The interesting thing about teaching physics back then is that you had to do it all by hand."

Rogers feels that because of this, "we depend too much on the tools that we have, and we lose some of the brainpower that we should have."

Although it may be time for Rogers to leave GSC, there are many students who will never forget his sense of humor, his grin and frequent quote, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

"Who knew rocks could be so interesting?" said Haley Brannon, a May 2008 graduate. "Dr. Rogers wanted you to learn through doing, through an experience. If we learned about riverbeds, we would be on a riverbank, mud up to our knees, and we enjoyed it."

There's no doubt that Rogers has made an impact on his students, but he will also be graciously remembered by his co-workers as well.

"Dr. Rogers has always been very dedicated and committed to the college and its students," said Gina Reed, a professor of mathematics at GSC. "He would go out of his way to help find resources for you to be innovative in the classroom. He will be missed by all."

Rogers will be moving back to Jackson, Miss., in January, where he hopes to do something that many retirees would love to do.

"I enjoy sailing," said Rogers. "There's a lake over there almost as big as Lake Lanier, and there's a yacht club there that I'm a member of, and that's where my boat is."

Even though Rogers is moving in January, he said his years at Gainesville State will be hard to forget.
"It's been a fantastic career," said Rogers. "My success here and my happiness here is really because I've had excellent leadership and support from the people that I work with."



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