Serving in the United States Navy for 26 years resulted in more than an intimidating demeanor for Jeffery “Chief” Rogers. He also became a Christian aboard a Navy ship and his military position brought him to Hillsdale College in 2011.
While working as chief of the lab for the Navy in Tokyo three years ago, Rogers was given the choice between moving to several new locations including Guam, New York City, and Michigan. He chose to move his family to Dwight, Michigan, where he began recruiting physicians for the Navy. After recruiting two Hillsdale students, he researched the ideals of Hillsdale College and found they aligned exactly with his own.
There was an opening for a new Associate Dean of Men at the college and Rogers applied.
“I wanted the job in order to mold students — the future leaders of tomorrow. I get to mold them today, teaching them to lead today,” said Rogers.
Roger’s emphasis on instructing students to lead in the present was explained by Davidson Russell, security training officer for Hillsdale College.
“The military made him realize life is short and there’s no sense in messing around,” Russell said. Before he became a Christian, Rogers was primarily concerned with superficial things like bodybuilding, but when his faith changed so did his priorities. He now focuses on how he can positively impact others’ lives with his work.
“His plate is very full,” said Russell. Far from an overstatement, Rogers serves Hillsdale College as Associate Dean of Men, Interim Security Director, Women’s Soccer Club Advisor, Watkins House Director, and his self-proclaimed most important title, loving husband, and father of two.
So that his son can finish his high school career in Dwight, Chief lives at the Watkins house and commutes an hour each weekend in addition to the occasional weekday. Although this is an obvious hardship, Rogers wife, Roma, holds a positive outlook.
“Comparatively to my other friends, who may only get to see their spouse thirty days out of the year, I get to see him a lot, and it’s not a hardship because the Lord placed us here,” said Roma Rogers.
Though Rogers’ family is his first priority, he is not hesitant to take on many other roles in order to serve Hillsdale College.
“I’ve got my tentacles involved with a lot of things, and the reason for it is I have a vested interest in the students’ success and I want them to do well,” Rogers said. His wife, , upholds this testament saying “his passion is for people.”
Chief’s many roles on Hillsdale’s campus testify to his dedication to building up exceptional students. He accomplishes this by having high expectations and pushing them to reach their goals.
“I want people to stick with the hard stuff… I want you to live up to your God-given potential,” he said.
In addition to sharing how his own testimony changed his life, Chief emphasizes how important it is for students to be dedicated to their own beliefs while attending Hillsdale College.
“Know what you believe and why you believe it, because it is your fuel,” he said. “I want you to have good success. There’s a difference [between good and bad success]. Good success is doing that which is right in the eyes of He who made you.”
Junior Gena Oster, president of the women’s soccer club, attests to his positive impact on students’ lives.
“Whenever someone says something about Chief, a smile always goes on people’s faces and they can think of a positive experience involving him,” she said.
One way Chief connects with students is by advising the women’s soccer club.
The 2011 – 2012 club team’s advisor left without naming a replacement and no alternative could be found. The soccer club faced the prospect of disbandment until Rogers answered the call.
Though willing to fill the need, he admits his shortcomings in soccer knowledge.
“I’m not a soccer player, but I know about how to win and about passion and desire … I was on board with their vision, and I’d rather they go kick a soccer ball than kick one of my guys,” he said.
He also leads their conditioning practices on Wednesday evenings. While it is one of the most difficult workouts many of the athletes have ever endured, Oster says Chief keeps them laughing in spite of the pain.
Oster said the team admires Chief for his ability to help them succeed in more than athletics.
“He is all about us growing physically, mentally, and spiritually. He wants to train us so we can not only be solid soccer players, but also incredible students and stronger in our faith,” she said.
He does this through encouraging good sportsmanship and an academics-first mentality reminding them what is really important as a Hillsdale student.
Through challenging students academically, physically, and spiritually, Chief Rogers constantly encourages students to lead in new ways. His most recent idea, to be carried out by students, is to honor those serving in the United States military. He has asked that whenever someone serving in the military from Michigan passes away, a student veteran lowers the flag and another plays taps on the trumpet.
“I just want students outside to give me 90 seconds to remember that freedom isn’t free. People are still dying for it, and we need to honor them. They may never hear about what we’re doing here at Hillsdale, but it’s my hope that the grass roots would start from us, as a way of saying that we haven’t forgotten here,” said Rogers.
In many ways, Rogers is planting seeds here at Hillsdale College, where he hopes to cultivate students who live lives of excellence in all they do.
“When you graduate, what’s important isn’t the piece of paper or the things you learn here, it’s what kind of legacy you leave behind. What will people say about you? Are they going to glorify God because of who you are, or are they going to talk about you?”