For the first time in 74 years, Earth is in its first week without Roger Bothwell.
When I first attended Atlantic Union College, I wasn’t in an upbeat mood at my 2nd attempt to finish college. Meanwhile, I was going through some difficult times. I had a friend who also was going through some rough times and she told me one of the teachers had a website in which he wrote about things that would help one gain new views of life. One day during lunch at the cafeteria, she pointed him out and told me his name was Roger.
While pre-registering for classes I saw Roger climbing up the steps along with his wife, Ian, and I introduced myself and asked him for his web site address. He gave it to me and told me he was on his way to a meeting. While registering, I noticed he taught a class: Philosophy of Education. I figured I could take it as an elective even though I was not an education major.
When I first stepped into his classroom the following semester, he warmly greeted me and everyone that walked in, asked our names, and told us how fortunate he was in having us in his class. That was a first, I never heard a teacher give that kind of welcome. I’ll never forget that he started that day of class by first talking about Plato’s Cave. As the semester progressed, his class became so interesting that the other classes I was taking felt boring compared to his. His classes were so thought provoking that there wasn’t enough time to ask all the questions I wanted in class. So, at the end of class, I would wait for him and walk with him to his office asking him more questions about what he had just finished talking about. It was that semester, in the fall of 1998, that had such a big impact in life. I could write an entire book on the impact that semester had one me. I decided to take another class the following semester with him.
Then, one day, I decided to ask him about his web site. Not specifically about the content but about how to setup a website, as I wanted to start one. When I look back and see how much I enjoy my job in working with one of Hollywood’s biggest film directors (I run his website), Roger was one of the few that made it possible for me to start that career path. He took the time and patience to describe how to set up a web site. But, he didn’t have all the answers and he wasn’t afraid to tell you so. “There’s nothing wrong in saying `I don’t know, ‘ “ he would always teach us.
Roger also had a way of knowing how you were doing. One day I was feeling miserable as I had been laid off a crappy part time job and I had no money. I never told him and towards the end of our talk in his office, he gave me a handshake with a $20 bill. In those days, that was enough for a full tank of gas and a trip to Taco Bell! Aside from teaching he would help students in need. He once told me that he hoped that one day I would do the same to others as he had done with us.
Then one day, out of the blue, Roger invited me over to his house. He had some pizza and Mountain Dew…the typical student diet. We spoke about his career and he asked me about my background. He then showed me his new computer: a Compaq desktop with 32MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. He was so excited about having that hard drive that he told me how he didn’t know if he was going to be able to fill it all up, all 20GB.
Now, one thing I’ll tell you—as you might not know—is that besides being an educator, Roger was also a minister. Prior to being at AUC, Roger had served as a minster all over the US and in Uganda. I had one major difference with Roger—philosophically speaking—as I’m an agnostic. Although I never told Roger that explicitly, he kind of knew it, as I would ask him question an agnostic would ask him. But that wouldn’t keep either us from forming a good friendship throughout the years. When I started my professional career as a web designer, and it was time for me to move to California, Roger and Ian drove me to the Providence, RI airport. I would keep in contact with him all the time. When I moved back, I would visit him often and we would catch up on everything to politics to the latest electronic gear.
One thing that Roger was proud of was his family. He always talked about how his wife was so smart and beautiful (she is) and how his kids were having their own families and how proud he was in becoming a “Poppa” with his new grand kids. Roger adored his wife and seemed he was stricken by her personality, beauty, and intellect as he was when he first met her. She was the queen of his life and he kept his queen happy. As some of you who are in the SDA church might not know, Roger was offered the position of being President of the Northern California Conference. He took the position and resigned about 3 days later. He wasn’t too fond of being stuck in meetings which kept him away from helping people and being away from his wife and kids. The man that took that vacant position—if I recall correctly—later rose to one of the highest positions in the SDA organization. That’s how much Roger loved being with his family.
The day came when I decided to marry my princess. At the time, I had a great job and we were now living in Watertown. We decided to get a marriage license and hire a justice of the peace for the small ceremony. I called Roger and asked him if I could get married in his house as it was big enough for a small ceremony with family and friends. He said yes. I told him that a justice of the peace would be arriving before we did and he told me: “Hey, I can marry you and you could save $200!” We cancelled the justice of the peace and proceeded to get married. The next day we took everyone out to eat at the Cheesecake Factory.
Throughout the years, Roger and his wife were very supportive of my wife and me. They helped us during some rough times with love and advice. When I would get the chance, I would go hear him preach on Worcester. Roger had a way of preaching for everyone. His sermons weren’t sermons at all. The one I most remember is the one where he talked about how society and its rules can dull the experience of living a happy life. Roger was also a cool modern man. One day he told me he heard a song in the radio that had a Johnny Cash vibe to it in which the singer sang “Your own Personal Jesus…” I told him it was by Depeche Mode and gave him a copy of the song. He liked it so much that he apparently wrote about it on his daily website. He also loved cars, more specifically American muscle cars. One story that I will remember is when he told me drove a motorcycle at over 110mph on a dirt road in Uganda. Apparently, that speed wasn’t enough for him as he became a private airplane pilot.
One of the things Roger would like to do is walk with his dog in the afternoons. He would do this every day at the nearby forest. At the time when digital photography was becoming mainstream, he would bring his camera and take photos. When we bought our first car (a Subaru WRX) he took pictures of me standing next to the car with his new camera. When I first bought my first professional camera, I asked him if I could shoot interiors of his home as it was nice and warm, he agreed. Years later when I started my brief photo career, we used his house as location for a shoot.
I could write forever about my experiences with Roger. The last ones we had were taking my son Ethan to visit Roger. Roger and Ian would always have a gift for Ethan including toys their kids had used when they were Ethan’s age. The last time I spoke Roger was about redoing his web site in July. I had done a redesign of his site back in 2010 and he wanted to control and publish his site online instead from his laptop. He was coming to officiate his granddaughter’s wedding in Pennsylvania and then he was to come to Maryland so that we could work on it and then go to Rita’s for some ice cream celebration. It never happened due to scheduling conflicts.
I was informed of his passing on the morning of Friday, October 27, 2017, by my wife.
The last email I received from him ended with the words: It’s more than time to get out of the revolving door and live the fullest life possible.
That was Roger for you. I will for always remember him.
— Nelson Lauren
P.S. The ceremony for Roger will take place November 25, 2017, at the Worcester Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2 Airport Drive, Worcester, MA 01602.
What becomes of this web site? The Bothwell family at this time will see what their options are and what the future brings. In the meantime, you can read Roger’s older post by checking the archives section of this web site. We are in the process of adding the older devotionals as he began writing them in the mid-late 1990s. Stay tuned.