It was July 2008, and I was having a really rough time. For encouragement, I carried around two emails I had just received that made me feel better whenever I read them. One was from Dubliner. The other was from Dr. Perry Rogers, my Upper School history teacher at Columbus School for Girls.
“You were always appreciative of the past and careful with words and ideas that have continuing meaning for life,” Dr Rogers wrote. “It’s so fitting that you are a librarian! I know that your teachers and classmates here at CSG always benefited from your insight (dare I say wisdom?) and that you have given so much to so many people. You are a constant reminder of the value of a CSG education and we are proud of you!”
Leave it to my favorite teacher of all time to know just what to say. After all, this was the same person who had convinced a shy Anglophile that much could be gained from reading a book written for a Prince other than Charles; researching a lord, not of an English country house, but of Panamanian drugs; and playing a game about a crisis, rather than thinking that playing a game was a crisis.
Last month, Dr. Rogers retired after 35 years at CSG. Now that his classroom days are history, it’s time for an independent study in the Dr. Rogers Experience.
Dr. Rogers arrived at CSG in 1982 from a professorship in history at The Ohio State University. His colleagues in OSU’s history department who had daughters at CSG told him to anticipate great things from these students who were serious about education, had big expectations for their futures, and would challenge him to be his best every day.
We could say the same thing about Dr. Rogers. We arrived in his classroom for English History our freshman year and started heeding the mantra from Martial, the Roman poet, printed on a wooden plaque sitting on our new teacher’s desk: “He lives twice who enjoys both the past and the present.”
We solved one of his first “History Mysteries,” his now-famous mindbenders with titles like “The Salisbury Stake.” Wandering the halls, muttering “Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred,” we memorized “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. We chose an English cathedral to study – mine was Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried. And we cringed over the thought of our frequent map tests, where we painstakingly placed dots and symbols on a map noting the exact location of British cities and landmarks. Those legendary tests led me to Northumberland, England to see Hadrian’s Wall not once, but twice, come September, for myself.
To teach us how historians combine detective techniques with research, Dr. Rogers assigned The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey’s award-winning crime novel blending contemporary detective work with the historical mystery of King Richard III and the murder of the Yorkist princes, Edward and Richard, in the Tower of London. We were still talking about it at our 30th reunion; I promptly checked out Josephine Tey: A Life, by Jennifer Morag Henderson, with a foreword by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid.
In sophomore year, we tackled political science with Dr. Rogers. We held debates in front of the Upper School, read Machiavelli’s 16th-century political treatise known as The Prince, played “The Crisis Game,” managed revolutions, analyzed public opinion polls and political campaigns, and tracked current events like the 1984 election of Manuel Noriega.
Praising me for my “intense and meticulous research,” Dr. Rogers also pushed me to contribute more to class discussions. “I need your fire and your knowledge!” was a familiar refrain. Mentally, I still enter a challenging conversation like Katharine Hepburn did on her barge, as we watched her play Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, a favorite Dr. Rogers film.
When we parted company to study history with other teachers, we knew we had a refuge in the classroom at the end of the hall. The man who bears a striking resemblance to the great classic film star William Powell was always there to support us. (Click here and see if you agree.)
And then it was time to graduate. At our end-of-the-school-year awards ceremony, Dr. Rogers presented me with an elegant engraved silver urn known as the the Mary Jane Rodabaugh Trophy for being the Upper School’s top student in the subject of history.
To accompany my prize, he gave me an inscribed copy of Daniel Boorstin’s The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself.
CSG honored Dr. Rogers and three other retirees at an open house on June 13.
Dr. Rogers asked his former students to share with him their memories. To accompany mine, I made him a personalized replica of a 19th-century bookmark. After posing for a photo, we compared notes about Durham Cathedral and Lindisfarne. See what it’s like to share interests with Dr. Rogers?
Besides being chair of CSG’s history department, Dr. Rogers also taught World History, Honors United States History, AP United States Government and Politics, AP Comparative Government and Politics, and AP European History. He also served as the coordinator of CSG’s summer school program and was assistant head of the school.
Dr. Rogers earned his Ph.D. in Roman history from the University of Washington, and his M.A. in ancient history and his B.A. in history and music from San Jose State University. He continued to teach several courses at Ohio State as an adjunct professor and at the Pontifical College Josephinum through 2010. He was awarded a seminar fellowship with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History at Cambridge University in 2003 and at the National Endowment for the Humanities “Worlds of the Renaissance” seminar at Columbia University in 2004. He is also a consultant for the College Board Advanced Placement program in World History.
For the complete Dr. Rogers experience, check out Aspects of Western Civilization: Problems and Sources in History, Aspects of World Civilization, and The Human Spirit: Sources in the Western Humanities, all of which he edited.