In Memoriam: Donald L. Rogan '54

The Rev. Donald L. Rogan, D.D. and D.H.L., Class of 1954, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at Kenyon College, a noted seminary and college educator, died September 18, 2015, at the Ohio Eastern Star nursing facility, where he was under the care of Hospice of Knox County. He was 85. Born in Virginia and raised in West Virginia, Rogan was educated at Morris Harvey College, West Virginia, before attending The General Theological Seminary and St. Augustine’s College, Canterbury in England. Rogan founded and led several parishes in West Virginia before joining the Religion Department at Kenyon in 1965, retiring in 1999. He was Chair of the Department for 15 years. After retirement he continued to teach on a part-time basis. He had also served as the College Chaplain from 1965 to 1972, and played a key role as a valued counselor to students during the turbulent Vietnam era. His book, Campus Apocalypse, argued that students of the time were in fact rejecting a complacent society of “security and status and prosperity without soul.” He saw them grappling with a search for salvation rather than in terms of a generational rebellion or identity crisis. Many of his Christian and Jewish students were inspired to pursue vocations in education, ministry, or social services.

Among various honors, he received the Kenyon Trustee Award for Distinguished Teaching that acknowledged his role in shaping the Religion Department and College curriculum “to resonate with the truly global languages of religious experience,” through courses in the Biblical field, religion in America, readings of Job, and other religious thinkers, such as Martin Buber. At his retirement, outside evaluators concluded it would take four faculty members to replicate his offerings.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award was bestowed upon Rogan for his leadership in working with the Black Student Union and his life-long commitment to civil and human rights, in part through clerical associations working with Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2001 General honored him with a Doctor of Divinity degree. In the citation read at that ceremony, it stated that he was being honored as “a self-confessed generalist, whose range of interests, sympathy for his subject matter, and sympathy with his students” exemplified his vocation as scholar and priest.

Kenyon conferred the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.) and cited his remarkable teaching at the College, “delivered with [a] trademark honesty and humor.” Two alumni, Myer S. Berlow ’72 and Caroline Coty Sidnam ’74, created the Donald L. Rogan Professorship to recognize him for the important role he played in student lives for more than 30 years. A wide circle of friends, alumni, colleagues, and staff have also reflected on his special role in their lives, as counselor and advocate, whether in the poetry readings he hosted with his wife, Sally, in their home, his support for campus workers, or in the legendary “Rogan weddings” of alumni over which he presided. And on two occasions graduating Seniors elected him as the Baccalaureate speaker for their Commencement week-ends.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Sarah (Sally) Larew Rogan, a retired school teacher; his sister, Jane, of Athens, Georgia; his four children, Edward of Atlanta, John of Nashville, Tennessee, Pete of Mesa, Arizona, and Lynn of Brooklyn, New York, plus their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and other family members.

The funeral, conducted by the Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Bishop of Ohio and Kenyon Trustee, was held September 26 at the Church of the Holy Spirit on the campus of Kenyon College. Burial followed in the Kenyon College cemetery.

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