Maryland environmental steward and alumna awarded Thiel College honorary degree

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College recognized outgoing Board of Trustees member and the first woman to serve as Maryland’s Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources Sarah Taylor-Rogers, Ph.D. ’69 with its highest honor Friday awarding her an honorary doctoral degree.

She was recognized during a ceremony that included family, friends of the College, the Board of Trustees, alumni, faculty and staff members. Taylor-Rogers was a valued member of the Board of Trustees for 27 years. Her three nine-year terms make her the longest-serving board member in school history. She shared her time and experiences as a distinguished speaker at Honors Convocations in 1998 and 2006 and was named a Distinguished Alumna in 1997. She hosted alumni events and participated on panels for students. Taylor-Rogers was a pioneer for women in Maryland’s environmental stewardship and civic service fields. She was the first woman to chair the Coastal States Organization and in doing so represented four governors to that organization. She was also the first woman to chair the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. She served on the Board of Trustees for Thiel College from 1989–1998, 2002–2009 and 2010–2019. She also serves on the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust.

“Throughout its history Thiel has recognized a remarkable group of individuals,” Thiel College President Susan Traverso, Ph.D., said, “and today continues that tradition as we grant this award of highest distinction.”

In 2004, Taylor-Rogers became assistant director of the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc. After 10 years, she was appointed acting director of the center, until her retirement in March 2017. In April 2019, the Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland asked for an encore.

“We have many reasons to honor Susan Taylor-Rogers, but there are two key reasons,” Thiel College Board of Trustees member G. Leah Dever ’74 said. “First, she had a remarkable professional career which included the improvement of the environmental conditions in the Chesapeake Bay region. Second, for her commitment to Thiel College. Everyone who has served on the Board of Trustees has learned something from Susan Taylor-Rogers.”

Taylor-Rogers was a research assistant and Fellow with the Center, a non-profit affiliated with the University of Maryland. Her published policy research supported the Center’s mission of promoting the economic viability of agriculture and forestry while keeping the environment in mind, particularly the Chesapeake Bay area. Before her tenure with the Center, Taylor-Rogers was appointed as the first female Secretary for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Her focus was on the management of Maryland’s natural resources through the use of sound science and improving the Chesapeake Bay area through education. In 1984, she served as the first executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission. Taylor-Rogers came to the Department of Natural Resources in 1979 as director of the Maryland Coastal Zone Management Program after five years of service with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, where she was responsible for a diverse team of professionals who oversaw the Washington, D.C. Water Supply Study. In that process, she developed a method to assess institutional strength to determine the ability to assume the local cost-share for Corps' projects. This method was adopted by the Corps as regulatory guidelines for all projects.

She received her Ph.D. in 1976 with honors from the Maxwell Graduate School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, with courses from the New York State College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, specializing in water resources and natural resources management. She received her master’s degree in public administration with honors in 1971 focusing on organization development. In 1969, she received her Bachelor of Arts from Thiel College with honors, majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish.

She is married to builder-developer John Whitson Rogers and has a talented family including son-in-law, actor/director Steve Witting; daughter, writer/actor/interviewer Renee L. Rogers; and granddaughter, Olivia Rose Witting, who graduated from and is working as an admissions counselor for Stanford University.

As a Thiel College honorary degree recipient, Taylor-Rogers joins luminaries Amelia Earhart H’32, Arnold Palmer H’76, United Nations-recognized humanitarian Firdaus Kharas, Ph.D. ’78, H’07 and beloved television host Fred Rogers H’69 among many other civic, community and institutional leaders.

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About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 25 varsity sports, and a 10:1 student-faculty ratio to more than 900 students. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College remains committed to combining tradition with innovation as it celebrates 150 years.