Fort Smith High School
Joanett "Jo" Rogers

First of all, no one calls me Joanett anymore (well, except for my mother). When we moved to Dallas in 1968, I decided to become just plain Jo, and now very few people even know my real name. It really did make meeting new people a lot less stressful!

Since 1978 I have been teaching chemistry at Richland College, one of the seven community colleges in the Dallas County Community College District. When I left for college I swore that I would do anything but teach! But now I cannot imagine a more satisfying profession. I have no plans for retirement because I still enjoy what I do. With the help of my husband, who is a computer geek, I have incorporated some of the newest technology into my teaching. He has written software that allows me to type chemical equations and solve math problems on the computer screen as easily as I could write on a whiteboard. The computer image is projected on a large screen for the 60-90 students to see in the two-story lecture hall. I also link directly to lots of videos and animations provided by publishers, as well as to resources on the Web. There’s always something new to try and the students are usually very appreciative. Most of our students are the first person in their family to attend college and are very eager to succeed. We also have many, many international students from Africa and Asia.

I will always be grateful to Miss Pride, our Latin teacher, for suggesting that I could leave Arkansas to go to college. She had gone to Newcomb College at Tulane University in New Orleans, and with her guidance, I was able to get a scholarship to Newcomb. During freshman orientation week, before classes even began, I met my husband Ralph at the Baptist church across the street from the Tulane campus. On weekdays, my curfew at the dorm was 10:00 pm, except for religious meetings. I suddenly “got religion” and faithfully attended every Sunday night service and Wednesday night choir practice and Ralph would walk me back to the dorm each time.

We married in December of our senior year, then both of us continued at Tulane for a master’s degree, he in business administration and I in biochemistry. We have two sons, both of whom inherited Ralph’s computer gene, and three grandchildren, all teenagers now. They live nearby in Plano and Irving, suburbs of Dallas.

Our passions, outside of work, are travel and music. Ralph is a founding member of the 25-yr-old men’s chorus, the Turtle Creek Chorale And I’ve been in The Women’s Chorus of Dallas since its beginning, sixteen years ago. The two groups have made many recordings, both separately and together. You can hear snippets of the music on each website. We’ll be returning to Carnegie Hall for the third time in February to present “Sing for the Cure”, a commissioned work that celebrates the lives of breast cancer survivors and their families. Our recording features Maya Angelou as the narrator, but I think that the work has much more impact when real breast cancer survivors do the narration, as they did when we presented it in concert.

I didn’t take advantage of the “junior year abroad” program at Newcomb because I was afraid that Ralph would find someone else, so I always told him that he “owed” me a trip to Europe. He paid off that debt with a Mediterranean cruise from Athens to Istanbul to Yalta, to Mykinos, to Venice in 1983. Our first trip to Asia was to Beijing, China in 1986. Ralph was selected to give a paper on strategic planning at the international oil and gas meeting. At that time, everyone was panicked that the price of oil might fall to $5 a barrel! Can you believe it? China was just opening up to tourists and there was one brand new American-style hotel – with a few problems. Somehow the hot and cold water pipes were reversed, so steam rose from the toilet!

One advantage of the academic schedule is plenty of time to travel in the summer, and friendships with faculty who like to take groups to foreign places. The French teacher at Richland takes small groups of 12-16 people to his native France and we have been part of that group four times now. Last summer we joined a geology group on the inside passage cruise to Alaska from Seattle. Despite working for ARCO Oil and Gas for 26 years, Ralph had never had a geology course, so we both learned a lot from that experience.

Our most extensive trip was to New Zealand and Australia in the fall of 1999. I used part of my sabbatical semester for that trip so we could be there during their springtime. We were gone for almost a month, toured the North Island and South Island of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, ending with snorkeling two places in the Great Barrier Reef. I would love to go back again.

Our favorite place is Santa Fe, New Mexico. We go there often for the summer opera season. That way we can combine both our passions, music and travel.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to the 50th reunion, or not. October is a difficult time to get away from school. I am in Ft. Smith fairly often to see my mom, so maybe I’ll make it to one of the Saturday breakfasts.

Jo “Rogers” Blackburn - 2005