Prolific philanthropist, education advocate dies

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 15, 2014 at 10:36 pm •  Published: June 15, 2014
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Jim Rogers, a philanthropist and education advocate who served as chancellor of Nevada's higher education system from 2005 to 2009 without pay, died Saturday evening at his Las Vegas home after a bout with cancer. He was 75.

Rogers also 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.

He graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 1962. The school was named for him after the gift he pledged in 1997 became the largest ever given to a law school at the time. 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."