James “Jay” Marshall Rogers, Instructor in History from 1985 to 2004, passed away on January 5, at the age of 72, according to a press release on the Andover website.
In addition to teaching history, Rogers served as a track announcer, a member of the gospel choir and an advisor to a number of clubs during his 19 years at Andover.
“The highest compliment I think we can pay a colleague around here is to say he was a school person, to say he or she was a school man or school woman, meaning, Jay [Rogers] did it all. Classroom, advising, relating to people, colleagues, sports, arts, clubs, athletic program, counseling a kid, counseling a colleague—Jay did all of the above,” said Peter Drench, Instructor in History, who began teaching at Andover a year after Rogers started.
In 1971, Rogers became the first African-American instructor to be named National Teacher of the Year, according to his obituary in “The Herald-Sun.”
At Andover, Rogers taught U.S. History and a popular elective on civil rights and American race relations, according to Drench. While teaching the course, Rogers drew examples from his own experiences as an African-American student at the height of the civil rights movement in North Carolina.
“A lot of [history teachers] can teach about the civil rights movement, but for him a lot of it was first person. I believe he was involved in the North Carolina Greensboro sit-ins, which were very big at the time,” said Drench.
Kathleen Dalton, Instructor in History, said, “He had worked on the Neighborhood Youth Corps [a national program established to help urban youths during Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty] and had a really strong identity with the African-American students and students who were not the most privileged kids. He would take African-American kids in the 80s… to get haircuts in the right place.”
“He was very committed to changing Phillips Academy from a preppy place to a multicultural school. He was one of the architects of the multicultural movement at Andover, before CAMD [the Community and Multicultural Development Office] existed,” continued Dalton.
“I loved talking to Jay about [his experience] growing up in a segregated community. He had a very strong sense of social justice, and we often found ourselves in the [history] office after classes talking about inequality in the world,” wrote Marcelle Doheny, Instructor in History, in an e-mail to The Phillipian.
At Andover, he was known for his sincerity and dedication to helping his students, according to Christopher Shaw, Instructor and Chair in History.
Rogers kept the closet in his classroom stocked with candy for his students, according to Drench. “I know there were probably kids sometimes who were feeling up against it, and he would say, ‘Go get some M&Ms,’ and he made them relax and gave them advice,” said Drench.
“[The candy was] for his kids, when he had advisees coming by, or students. Often he would have tough conversations, because he had very, very high standards for his kids… He was really good at reaching out to kids and really helping them surpass what they thought was possible. So he was tough, but really loving. The whole candy thing is just so Jay,” said Shaw.
“Students were at the very center of his life… There was a genuineness and an authenticity there that I think kids really responded to,” continued Shaw.
“He was always such an optimistic person… He got very sick a few years before he retired and I never heard him complain, feel sorry for himself or seem defeated. He was really irrepressible. Larger than life,” wrote Doheny.
Shaw remembers Rogers as a “true southerner at heart,” drawn to Andover by Derek Williams, former Instructor and Chair in History, who was also from North Carolina.
As faculty advisor to the North Carolina Club, Rogers held pizza parties at his faculty apartment during the annual Duke University vs. University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball game, according to Drench, who served as the club’s assistant faculty advisor.
“Mr. Rogers was a huge basketball fan, huge North Carolina fan. It was just a really fun evening, just really nice, mid-winter, warm atmosphere,” said Drench.
Well-known for his singing voice in gospel choir, Rogers also used his booming voice as an announcer for Andover Indoor Track meets, according to Richard Gorham, Assistant Director of Andover Bread Loaf and Head Coach of Wrestling.
“He was the longtime voice of Andover Track. [Rogers would say,] ‘All young ladies, competing in the javelin, rrrreport to the adjudicator now’… The guy was brilliant, I miss him terribly. He was a legend of Andover Track. Opposing coaches the year after he retired asked, ‘What happened to him?’” said Gorham.
“He had a great, great speaking voice and singing voice. Not good, great. He performed here. He could have been a professional actor or a radio announcer. He had that kind of voice,” said Drench.
Doheny added, “Jay was always singing. He would walk along the hallways of Sam Phil singing at the top of his lungs.”