We are sorry to note that Earl Rogers, the University of Iowa’s archivist from 1970 to 1998, passed away early Wednesday morning at his home in Iowa City following a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 77.
Earl was born May 2, 1938, in Moline, Illinois. He received the bachelor of science degree in history in 1961 at Iowa State University, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a history graduate student in 1962-1966, and completed his master of library science degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. After a three-year stint as a cataloguer in the University of Utah Library, he returned to Iowa, joining the UI Libraries’ Department of Special Collections in July 1970 to arrange and index the Henry A. Wallace Papers. Over time, he assumed the role of university archivist. He published numerous indexes and bibliographies pertaining to agricultural and UI history. Among his many noted acquisitions are the Papers of James A. Van Allen, which were processed under his supervision.
Although Earl retired in 1998, he continued to maintain two features on the UI Archives’ web site: our online bibliography of UI history-related materials, and a unique page titled ‘Fiction With an Iowa City Setting: An Updated Checklist.’ Earl would, from time to time, submit new entries or annotations for me to add to these sites.
I always looked forward to hearing from Earl, regardless of the nature of his dispatch, whether it was a new list of entries to upload, a report on his and Susan’s latest trips (Galapagos Islands, Turkey, and New Zealand, for starters), or a review of a new local restaurant. Earl often stopped by our department to drop off an obituary, a clipping, or an article for our vertical file. We appreciated his vigilance, not to mention his subscription to The New York Times.
Earl never second-guessed my decisions as his successor, though certainly on many occasions he had good reason to tap me on the shoulder. I would like to believe it was because he trusted me. More likely, however, it was because he and Susan were having a blast in Peru.
I feel a bit stranded right now. Because of Earl’s remarkable longevity as UI’s archivist – 28 years – and the fact that his position was vacant for over two years until I arrived in 2001, I now have no direct forebear from the archives to call on, no predecessor, whether retired or working elsewhere. Archivists value institutional memory, particularly when shared memory and experience pass from one generation to the next within their shop. Those links inevitably break as time passes.
One last round of web page updates from Earl awaits on my desk. I’ll get to them soon.
Thank you, Earl, and our condolences to Susan and family.
David McCartney, C.A.