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Sarah Hanlon is asked the same question whenever she meets professional range managers who attended the University of Wyoming. They always ask, "Was Dan still there when you were in school?"
They refer to Professor Dan Rodgers, who taught, coached and advised them during their time at UW. Because of his passion for teaching and knowledge of his subject, Rodgers was chosen to receive the John P. Ellbogen Lifetime Teaching Award, which recognizes sustained teaching excellence for the length of one's career.
When Hanlon was 14, Rodgers was an instructor at a youth natural resources camp she attended. She says his teaching sparked her interest in range management as a career. Hanlon later enrolled at UW, and she remembers: "Student orientation came, and when it was time to meet with a faculty member to plan your first semester of courses, there was Dan. He was there with the same passion, and the same enthusiasm, and the same desire to help the students that I remembered from previous summers," says Hanlon, a rangeland management specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Springfield, Colo.
Rogers was already a respected educator when he arrived at UW in 1980 after serving 13 years as an extension educator at Texas A&M. He led hundreds of presentation and workshops and wrote bulletins and media releases to inform others about natural resource science. All along, he shared his extensive knowledge of rangeland resources with his Wyoming students.
"Dan has taught about every class we have in the department and taught them all well," says his colleague, Professor Jim Waggoner. "However, he really excels in the plant identification, grass taxonomy and poisonous plants type classes. He has the unique ability to bring the difficult material in these classes alive, thus stimulating and exciting the students about the material and demonstrating how they will use it later in their careers."
Sharing his vast expertise in the classroom is just part of Rodgers' long commitment to student learning. He has led student activities as adviser to the Range Club and Rodeo Club, and since 1992 he coached and prepared of the UW Plant Team for international intercollegiate competition. For 12 years he also coached UW's team in preparing for the University Range Management Exam sponsored by the Society for Range Management, and advised students competing in extemporaneous speaking.
He has been involved with Wyoming Resource Education Days (WyRED) for decades, where he has assisted and instructed 4-H and FFA members and their instructors, and professionals in rangeland management.
"The knowledge gained from youth at WyRED is the foundation upon which they build their careers in natural resource management," says one of his former students, Matt Scott, natural resource specialist with the Laramie Rivers Conservation District.
In 2005, the international Society for Range Management and Range Science Education Council presented Rodgers with its highest honor for teachers, the Outstanding Undergraduate Teacher Award.