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1947 Dr. Karel 2023

Dr. Karel L. Rogers

June 28, 1947 — May 31, 2023

Newark, MD


Dr. Karel L. Rogers, a distinguished scholar, beloved professor, and cherished family member, passed away on May 31st at the age of 75 surrounded by family.


Karel was born June 28, 1947, in Hart, Michigan. She attended the Marywood Academy for two years in Grand Rapids, Michigan before graduating from Hart High School in 1965. Karel then attended and earned degrees in biology culminating in a PhD in Vertebrate Zoology / Paleoherpetology at Michigan State University in 1975. She was a Professor at Adams State College in Southern Colorado from 1976 to 1994, then Dean of Science and Natural Resources at Lake Superior State University before retiring from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2008.


Karel had a passion for all living creatures, adopting most others would not understand. When she moved to Southern Colorado the family - besides two small children - included three iguanas, two snakes, and a parakeet. As such, people brought reptiles in need to her. By the late 1980s, the family grew with the addition of 17 turtles and a beloved yellow nape parrot, Necio. In addition to her animal care, Karel loved reading, gardening, baking, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.


Karel was well-published in the science community and a strong environmentalist. She hoped humanity could be saved from themselves but more importantly, the world’s little creatures had an advocate. She was also a champion for social and political justice, frequently advocating for causes in the local community, region, state/federal policy, and international biodiversity. In Alamosa, CO, she organized a neighborhood to obtain safe drinking water, spearheaded the regional science fair for many years, and led a million-dollar fundraising campaign to save the local swimming pool all while providing a stable and loving household as a single mother and professor. Later, she served as chair of the Western Michigan Environmental Action Council having a major impact on green building and policy in Western Michigan.  She advocated for environmental policy and zoning improvements for factory farming in the Midwest and always supported efforts to improve habitat quality for diverse species.  As part of her research, she explored and cataloged paleoclimatology in the San Luis Valley and paleoherpatology across the globe.  She went to Madagascar three times systematically hunting for fossil evidence. Her global biodiversity advocacy included attending the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  Her valuable perspectives are compiled into the book, “Thinking Green: Ethics for a Small Planet.”


From her own experiences, she first figured out and accomplished what was needed, but then acknowledged it for what it was and shared it with others.  This approach ensured she excelled and mentored others to reduce naivety and increased critical thinking to prepare them for future events.  She imparted a love of science in her kids, nieces, and nephews through frog and salamander excursions and studies. 


Karel cherished time with her family and friends. She was a devoted mother to her children, Darren Rogers and Adrienne Minerick, and a loving spouse to her partner, John Verhagen, who adored her.


Dr. Karel Rogers leaves behind a legacy of intellectual curiosity, knowledge, and passion for balanced and green ecosystems. Her contributions advanced knowledge and made the world a better place.  She found joy in sustainable living including building a passive solar home and garden oasis with her husband John Verhagen, long walks in nature, reading voraciously, and caring for her animals. Karel's presence, dry humor, love, and warmth will be deeply missed by all who knew her. Karel leaves behind an exceptional legacy of strength, intellectual brilliance, and unwavering advocacy for the smallest planetary creatures that will forever be remembered by those she touched.


Karel is survived by her husband, John Verhagen, son Darren Rogers (Heather), daughter Adrienne Minerick (Rob), grandchildren Madison and Lucian, stepchildren Aaron (Amanda) and Cole (Teresa) Verhagen, step-grandchildren Ava, Quinn, Tristan, Hazel, and Marshal. In addition, she is survived by her brothers Nick (Pat) Kokx and Dan Kokx, sisters Mary Jo Kattelman (Kent), Jean and Tara (Bill) Fox, her lizard, Trav2, and bird, Babe. She was preceded in death by her parents Delbert and Wanda Kokx, brothers Paul and Dayle, iguanas Traveler and Piggy, birds Necio and Smokey, and dog Polly.


A private celebration of Dr. Karel Rogers' life will be held alongside her green burial at Evergreen Memorial Park in Evergreen, Colorado. In lieu of flowers, Karel kindly requests donations to be made to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) {}, the Union of Concerned Scientists {}, or National Geographic {}, which are all close to her life’s passion.

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