When James R. Rogers was just 8 years old, he heard about someone who had taken his own life. This curiosity led to a career where he was an internationally recognized expert.
Rogers, of Granger Township, died Monday of brain cancer, an illness that was only discovered in July. He was 62.
Rogers was a University of Akron professor of counseling in the College of Education and past president of the American Association of Suicidology.
A 1968 graduate of Norton High School, he received his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from UA. He also was an adjunct professor of behavioral and community health sciences at Northeast Ohio Medical University and formerly chairman of the department of counseling at Youngstown State University.
“He developed a suicide assessment checklist that has been used around the world,” said his wife, Judy Rogers.
The couple have two sons, James and Michael.
In a 2011 interview, Rogers told the Beacon Journal how difficult it is to stop someone from killing themselves once that person has made the decision to take his or her life.
“It is a real challenge to intervene with someone considering suicide,” said Rogers. “That is one of the frustrating things.”
The goal in working with suicidal people, Rogers said, is to help them make a decision to live and “to connect at a very human level and say, ‘listen, I can’t stop you from killing yourself. But maybe if we work together, we can find some other solutions to your problems.’ ”
Hope for patients
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Rogers spent two weeks in New York working with the families of victims.
Andrea Denton, retired co-facilitator of the Summit County Suicide Prevention Coalition with the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Summit County, said part of Rogers’ vision on the subject of suicide was “getting people to take suicide seriously. … He was good at offering the hope that if they were suicidal that things could be better and that clinicians, family members and people around that person could make a difference.”
Lanny Berman, the executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, said the organization and his colleagues within the group “deeply mourn his loss to our community and to the future of suicide prevention. His research publications, books, and, most profoundly, his mentorship of students and peers have left an enduring legacy.”
He offered this assessment of Rogers’ leadership with the organization as being “synonymous with his [Rogers’] personality — constant, warm, gentle, yet, outstanding.”
Honored by students
Judy Rogers said her husband was also an avid runner, having run in the Boston and New York marathons.
An award he treasured, she said, was one that came from the students in the Counseling Psychology Graduate Student Organization — an organization he founded.
The award was called “A True Leader.”
His students wrote: “[Rogers] has the confidence to stand alone. The courage to make tough decisions. The compassion to listen to others. He does not set out to be a leader but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”
His wife said her husband was “generous to a fault” and cared deeply for his students.
“He would always stop and listen,” she said. “He took time to listen to everyone. There was nothing more important than the people around him.”
A memorial service for Rogers will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 6462 Ridge Road in Sharon Township. There will be a luncheon after the memorial service at the Sharon Township Hall at 1322 Sharon Copley Road across from the church.
Memorial donations may be made to the Dr. James R. Rogers Scholarship Fund, the University of Akron Foundation, Department of Development, Akron, OH 44325-2603.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.