Lorene Rogers

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Lorene Lane Rogers (April 3, 1914 – January 11, 2009) was an American biochemist and educator who served as the president of the University of Texas at Austin in the 1970s, who has been described as the first woman in the United States to lead a public university.

Early life and education[edit]

Born on April 3, 1914 in Prosper, Texas as Lorene Lane, she was awarded a bachelor's degree from North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), majoring in English. She met her husband, Burl Gordon Rogers,[1] while attending North Texas State Teachers College. After graduating from North Texas, Rogers became a school teacher. Her husband, Burl Rogers, was a chemist. He had graduated from the University of North Texas in 1935 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and taught at the University of Texas until about 1940. Around that time, he accepted a job from a chemical company, General Aniline Works, in Linden, New Jersey, where, in 1941, he died from injuries of a laboratory explosion.[2]

At a time when biochemistry was a "field dominated by men", Rogers decided to follow in her husband's footsteps, figuring that "if he liked chemistry so well, that she wanted to pursue it also." She earned a master's degree and a doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of Texas at Austin and taught at Sam Houston State College (now Sam Houston State University) before returning to Austin, Texas.[2]

University career[edit]

She had been a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, but her application in 1962 for a teaching position was rejected, despite the fact that she had already taught courses in the chemistry department. She ultimately was given a position as a professor of nutrition in the university's home economics department, before becoming a full professor, assistant director of a biochemical institute, associate dean of graduate studies and vice president.[2]

She was named as interim president of the University in September 1974, succeeding Dr. Stephen H. Spurr, who had just been dismissed after becoming the school's fifth president in a six-year period.[2][3] She became president in 1975, and was variously described as the first woman to be president of a major state university or was believed to be the first. Faculty members were critical of the appointment, claiming that they should have been involved in the selection process, and protest rallies were conducted by faculty and students demanding that she resign.[2][4] President Rogers and the Board of Regents were the target of a 1975 lawsuit filed by Philip L. White and seven other UT Austin professors, who claimed that they had been denied raises as part of an effort to stifle their dissent, in violation of the First Amendment rights.[5] She served as president of the university until 1979.[2]

In a 1975 profile, she described how she had "never been one who pushed ahead and scratched the walls trying to climb my way up". She stated that "I had no plans or ambitions to become a career woman. If my husband had lived, I probably would have been a housewife."[2]

William C. Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin at the time of her death, described how she was "the first and only woman to serve as president of the university, a position she accepted under difficult circumstances. She was not afraid to make tough decisions."[2]

Rogers served as a director of Texaco starting in 1976, serving until 1989.[6]

Rogers died at age 94 on January 11, 2009 of natural causes in Dallas.[2]


  1. ^ Burl Gordon Rogers (1914–1941) graduated from the University of North Texas in 1935 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry (North Texas Yucca Yearbook)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hevesi, Dennis. "Lorene Rogers, President of University of Texas in ’70s, Is Dead at 94", The New York Times, January 25, 2009. Accessed January 26, 2009.
  3. ^ Staff. "U. OF TEXAS HEAD OUSTED IN DISPUTE; Woman Is Appointed Acting President by Chancellor", The New York Times, September 26, 1974. Accessed January 26, 2009.
  4. ^ Sterba, James P. "CAMPUS PROTESTS U. OF TEXAS HEAD; New President Is Opposed by Faculty and Students", The New York Times, September 28, 1975. Accessed January 26, 2009.
  5. ^ Staff. "7 PROFESSORS SUE U. OF TEXAS HEAD; They Say She Denied Raises to Stifle Campus Dissent", The New York Times, October 1, 1975. Accessed January 26, 2009.
  6. ^ Gilpin, Kenneth N. "Fund's Choice Joining Texaco Board", The New York Times, January 24, 1989. Accessed January 26, 2009.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Stephen H. Spurr
President of University of Texas at Austin
Succeeded by
Peter T. Flawn