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Jim Rogers: Donating his money and time to education

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Updated: 6/21 4:09 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Having succeeded in law, banking and broadcasting, Jim Rogers, at 66, probably had earned the right to take it easy and enjoy the benefits of his hard work.

But Rogers, who died Saturday at 75, had a fire in his belly to make Nevada’s colleges and universities as good as they could be.

Rogers believed that every person should attain the maximum level of education possible -- from college and university degrees to vocational training.

Rogers himself had set an example by getting a degree in accounting, a law degree and another in tax law. With hard work, and luck, he rose from humble beginnings in Kentucky to become a major employer and philanthropist in Nevada, and the owner of a chain of television stations.

With the money he made, Rogers and his wife, Beverly, made major contributions to universities and colleges, including the University of Arizona and UNLV. He also helped pay for many of his employees to attend colleges and university throughout the west.

He was concerned that American students were losing the thirst for knowledge, and hoped that his contributions to higher education and push for better funding of schools by state governments would help young Americans to “live the good life.”

In addition to giving millions of dollars to higher education, Rogers wanted to do more to improve Nevada’s colleges and university. In 2004, he stepped away from his television company to serve a five-year, largely unpaid, term as chancellor of the state’s system of higher education.

As chancellor, Rogers pushed for a medical school in Southern Nevada and applauded the work of former Dean Richard Morgan in establishing a well-regarded law school at UNLV. Rogers believed faculty members should help the public understand the importance of a university system, what it adds to a community’s culture and economy.

“I was positively shocked,” he wrote. “By many professors throughout the Nevada system who believe that their function is solely to teach, and they are not in the job of community relations.”

He also saw problems with the system of tenure in the U.S. system of higher education. He described it as the “Holy Grail of job security” that protects a university professor’s job after six years.

The Nevada Board of Regents may have made an unusual choice in Rogers as chancellor. He lobbied hard for the job, and when he got it, a past mentor reminded him that he was “not a patient man.”

Rogers had no problem acknowledging that reality. He was not a fan of slow change. Just as in his careers as an attorney and businessman, he was about action, growth and rapid improvement. He pushed the presidents of the state’s community colleges and universities to work together rather than compete for limited money. He advocated ending the decades-old system in which UNLV often lost out to the University of Nevada, Reno in the battle for state funds.

At one point he pushed for a significant statewide tuition increase, hoping it would fire-up students to speak out for more money for their schools. He received the desired response at one of the most heated Board of Regents meetings in state history.

Rogers believed that a larger share of Nevada’s education money should go to Southern Nevada, where nearly 75 percent of the state’s population lives and works.

When he stepped down as chancellor, he returned to the day-to-day operations of his TV stations, but remained an advocate for Nevada’s college students. His wife, Beverly, strongly supports UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, where writers from oppressed countries can find creative freedom.
At recent community events, Rogers called on Nevadans to support the state’s public schools, colleges and universities, lamenting what he saw.

“The new economic philosophy of America is that free enterprise, unrestricted competition and greed are the bywords of the day,” Rogers stated. “The thought of helping others become a success seems to have disappeared.”

That was not Rogers’s philosophy. He profited greatly from free enterprise, but he also believed in helping others reach their dreams.

READ PART 4: Remembering Jim Rogers: Partner Lou Wiener inspired his philanthropy

READ PART 2: Jim Rogers: From lawyer to TV station owner
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