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Volume 70, Issue 7, Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Service today remembers fallen activist

Rodger Peters, UH alumnus and staff member, fought for rights 
of disabled citizens, students

By Jim Parsons
The Daily Cougar

Although everyone who knew Rodger Peters realized he led a full life, the true extent of his work may not have been evident until after he was gone.

Peters, a UH alumnus, staff member and advocate for the rights of the disabled, died July 10. He was 47.

"It was so funny just being in the room, talking about all his achievements," Staff Council President Angie Shortt said of a meeting to plan a memorial service for Peters, which will be held at 4 p.m. today in the A.D. Bruce Religion Center. "Everyone knew of all kinds of achievements, but they were all so different. He had a lot of layers."

Peters was confined to a wheelchair after being diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy, at age 6. He earned his bachelor's degree in biology from Louisiana College in Pineville, La., and received his master's degree in biology at UH.

As a student here, Peters chaired the Student Fees Advisory Committee in 1993 and 1994 and was later a staff adviser to the group, all the while lobbying to meet the needs of disabled students.

"He was a very active student leader. He was very instrumental in many policy changes and he was definitely an advocate for the disabled and for those that needed special accommodations," Shortt, who worked with Peters on SFAC, said.

President George H.W. Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, presented Peters with his master's degree in 1994.

"The president said that he heard I had something I wanted to tell him, and I did. I said, ‘Thanks. Thanks for the ADA,'" Peters said in a 2002 interview with Campus News.

After graduation, Peters worked as a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the UH Health Center. He was on the task force that created a program for students who need attendant care, worked to improve campus housing for disabled students and helped plan and promote the University's Disability Awareness Week activities.

Peters also circulated a petition to save the Chinese Star restaurant on Calhoun Road when the University was discussing demolition of the shopping center in which the restaurant is located.

"Rodger never ceased to amaze me. I admired him tremendously," said Cheryl Amoruso, director of the Justin Dart, Jr. Center for Students with DisAbilities. "He was challenging. I don't mean that in a negative way ... he always challenged things that were important."

Peters also served on Staff Council for six years and was planning to run for re-election this year, Shortt said. During his term, he chaired the Communications Committee, sat on the Staff Affairs Committee and was the council's first Webmaster, listserv author and moderator.

"He was a very loyal and dedicated staff member as well as alumnus. He was a Cougar through and through," Shortt said.

This afternoon's memorial service, open to everyone in the UH community, will be followed by a reception at the Religion Center for Peters' friends and family.

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