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Charles Frederick (Fred) Rogers ’66

October 20, 2022, in Boulder, Colorado.

Born in Vancouver, Washington, Fred was drawn to the sciences at an early age with dreams of helping fuel the glory of the space race. As a child he conducted many advanced science experiments and entered regional and national science fairs. When he was 13, he won the Northwest Science Exposition with an exhibit demonstrating the basic propulsion system of the Vanguard project, which was intended to launch the first artificial satellite into low Earth orbit using a Vanguard rocket.

At the age of 17, he built a Van de Graaff proton accelerator in his bedroom, which earned him a finalist spot in the National Science Exposition and the honor of a sponsored trip to Washington, D.C., to meet President John F. Kennedy.

Following high school, Fred was accepted to numerous colleges, including Caltech and the University of Washington, but chose Reed, the first in his family to attend higher education. While studying physics at Reed, he met his future wife, Karen Herndon ’66. He wrote his thesis, “Photo Stimulation of Si-SiO₂ Interface States,” advised by Prof. Jean Delord [physics 1950–88].

Fred began a PhD program in atmospheric physics at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he studied under and later worked in close partnership with his mentor, pioneering physicist Patrick Squires. Fred and Karen married in 1967 and had two sons, Jason and Devon.

After completing his doctoral dissertation in 1977, Fred worked until retirement at the Atmospheric Sciences Center Desert Research Institute (DRI), a division of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), as an aerosol physicist studying climate change and air pollution. He also taught graduate courses in atmospheric physics at the university and was a committee member for many PhD students.

Extremely humble by nature, he usually chose to be listed as “Fred Rogers” versus his full name and accreditations in the many scientific journal articles he authored or coauthored, and habitually put students’ names ahead of his. He often told people he was a plumber (a profession he carried great respect for). Fred chose to live simply, drive old, cheap cars, and save money for family and travel.

In 1978, he went to Galway, Ireland, to work with colleagues at University College Galway (now the University of Galway). This sparked a love for all things Irish; he returned in 1979 with his entire family. His affinity for Ireland endured; he continued working with the physics group in Galway and was able to attend many professional conferences there during his long career. He loved Irish culture and history, especially traditional Irish music.

In the 1980s, he met and eventually married his second wife, Penny Royce, and stayed deeply in love and devoted for the rest of his life. Prior to retirement, Fred conducted research and teaching sabbaticals at NASA Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, California, and UC Berkeley. He retired from UNR/DRI in 2003. After retirement, Fred and Penny traveled widely in Europe, where they especially enjoyed the south of France.

Incredibly kind and generous by nature, Fred believed deeply in social justice and LGBT and racial minority rights, and loved meeting and talking with strangers. Throughout his life Fred valued science, learning, and education.

He is survived by his wife, Penny Royce-Rogers, sons Jason Rogers and Devon Rogers, and stepdaughters Kristy Royce and Katie Royce-Salazar.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2023

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