Jack Rogers was already renowned for his work on Xylariaceae. He had described many new species of Xylaria, fungi commonly found growing on dead wood, including X. magnoliae, which grows from blackened magnolia fruit and resembles burnt matchsticks. During one particular Mycological Society of America foray—in Florida, in the early 1980s—this fungus was abundant. And participants kept presenting him with specimens.
“It was like they were bringing him gifts,” recalls Lori Carris (’83 MS Plant Path.), then a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Even though he already had a bagful of this fungus, he would look over each specimen very carefully and say, ‘Oh, that is a beauty! I think I’ll keep this one.’ That speaks to who he was and why people really liked him. He made everyone feel special.”
The longtime Washington State University professor and mycologist—remembered for his booming voice, distinctive West Virginia accent, disarming and endearing sense of humor, enthusiasm for the outdoors, and genuine care for students and colleagues—died at home in Pullman on June 14. He was 83.
Rogers was a longtime member of WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. A past president of the Mycological Society of America (MSA), he wrote or cowrote more than 230 scientific papers and two books. Among his accolades are the R.M. Wade Award for Instruction (1967); the Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research, Scholarship, and Arts (1986); the MSA’s Weston Award for Teaching Excellence (1992); the MSA’s Distinguished Mycologist Award (2004); the Library Excellence Award for Service to WSU Libraries (2005); and the WSU Eminent Faculty Award (2006).
Born in West Virginia, Rogers earned a bachelor of science from Davis and Elkins College, master of science from Duke University, and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He joined the faculty at WSU in 1963, the year he earned his doctorate.
He taught forest tree pathology and advanced mycology, advised graduate and postgraduate students, and served as department chair from 1985 until 1999. He was promoted to Regents Professor in 2007. Long after his 2013 retirement, Rogers continued coming to work. “It was kind of a challenge to see if I could get there before Jack,” Carris notes. “The only time he took off consistently was Wednesday afternoon.”
That’s when he went fishing. Rogers also enjoyed foraging with friends and colleagues. “He loved being out in the woods. He loved anything to do with fungi,” says Carris, who worked with Rogers for 30 years, including team-teaching a course for nearly a decade. She first met him as a graduate student at WSU, and he was department chair when she was hired. Their offices were next door, and he taught a graduate course on ascomycetes and fungi imperfecti across the hall.
Timothy D. Murray (’80 MS, ’83 PhD Plant Path.), chair of plant pathology, “never worked harder in a class than when I took his class.” He knew Rogers for 43 years, coming to WSU in 1978 as a graduate student, then joining the faculty in 1983. Rogers was his professor, colleague, chair, mentor, friend.
“He really was the complete package,” Murray says. “He was a great scholar. He won awards for his research. He was very prolific in terms of publication. He was an engaging and committed teacher. And he worked on a number of higher-level university committees. He loved all aspects of the job, and he did them well.”
He was also “a real character,” Murray says. “He loved to tell a good joke. And he was very vocal in terms of explaining his position. If he had an opinion and it differed from yours, you would know what his opinion was.”
Rogers traveled the world for research and to collect specimens, helping curate WSU’s Charles Gardner Shaw Mycological Herbarium. For more than 30 years, he received funding from the National Science Foundation for his research, which, Carris says, “really laid the foundation for a lot of the work on Xylariaceae that is going on today.”
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Belle, and their twin daughters, Becky and Barbie, and their families.