James E. Rogers, a philanthropist and education advocate whose donation to the UA in 1997 was the largest ever received by a law school at the time, died Saturday at his Las Vegas home after a bout with cancer. He was 75.
He graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 1962. The school was named for him after he pledged $115 million toward it.
“All of you who knew Jim realize what a loss this is to the entire University of Arizona community, and we feel this loss especially deeply,” UA law school dean Marc Miller wrote on the program’s website.
Rogers’ legacy will continue “in the programs he helped build, the students whose lives he changed, and the many people here who became his friends. His character and vision will continue to shape the experience and careers of future generations of graduates,” Miller said.
Rogers also served as chancellor of Nevada’s higher education system from 2005 to 2009 without pay.
He was the owner of KSNV-TV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, and oversaw the growth of Sunbelt Communications into 14 TV stations in five Western states. Sunbelt now is known as Intermountain West Communications Co.
In 2007, Rogers said he was worth about $300 million and had donated some $275 million to universities, including $60 million to schools in Nevada. In 2000, he was named among the nation’s top 12 philanthropists by Time magazine.
His donations also helped establish the law school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“Jim and I were contemporaries while practicing law, and what a terrific lawyer he was,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “And his talents were not limited to law. What he has done in education is superb. His philanthropic endeavors are unsurpassed in the state of Nevada.”
As chancellor of the University of Nevada system, Rogers fought for increased education funding and sought to shake up the system to improve it.
He criticized Nevada’s tax policy and called for personal and corporate income taxes to help pay for education. His clashes with UNLV President Carol Harter and University of Nevada, Reno, President John Lilley forced them to quit. He supported a proposal to have university regents appointed instead of elected.
He also donated his salary back to the university system.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said Nevada “lost one of its most outspoken and fearless advocates,” citing Rogers’ national recognition as a philanthropist and business leader.
“Jim dedicated his time and resources to advancing our education system and as chancellor of higher education, was fierce in his commitment to make sure our students had the resources they needed to succeed,” Sandoval said in a statement. “Jim’s legacy will live on in the many lives he touched throughout his truly remarkable career.”
Critics branded Rogers as abrasive and opinionated, but he said he simply sought to get the best from himself and others around him.
“I’m very demanding of other people and myself,” Rogers told the Las Vegas Sun upon retiring as chancellor. “I do have a very short temper, and I wish I didn’t. But that’s the way I am. ... At the same time, I’m consistent and I expect the people I work with to meet high expectations.
“I’ve got one shot going through this life. I want to make sure I do as much as I can,” the Las Vegas High School graduate added.
Rogers’ survivors include his wife, Beverly, and three children from a previous marriage.
Funeral arrangements were pending.