Rogers Runs for President, LosesBy Michael A. Saginaw
The illustrious political career of Hartley Rogers Jr. began when he was in the fifth grade. A nice girl in his class nominated him for class secretary. Her name was Barbara Pierce.
After grade school they drifted apart. Barbara Pierce became Barbara Bush and Hartley Rogers became a professor of mathematics here at MIT. Among other academic endeavors, he has been teaching Calculus II (18.02) for several years.
This year, however, some students looked to him as more than just a math professor.
Two weeks ago Anthony C. Leier '96, a student in 18.02, was discussing the presidential race with some friends. He joked offhand that Rogers should be President. "I was wondering who I was going to vote for, and I thought of Hartley Rogers," Leier said.
Then his friend Steven C. Leung '96 printed signs and banners which poked fun at Clinton, Bush, and Perot. Many of the signs used math symbols. One sign said that "limx`Perot ears (x) = deg. ." The same sign also named Rogers "the only intuitively obvious choice for President!!!" a reference to Rogers' frequent use of the phrase "intuitively obvious" in his lectures. According to Leung, Rogers has said the word "intuitively" 32 times in 19 lectures this term.
Over the weekend, Leung and his friends hung up two banners with a similar theme in 10-250, and Leung put two signs on Rogers' door. "I wanted to make sure he would see [the signs]," Leung said.
Then, on Oct. 27, Rogers told his 18.02 class that he had seen the signs, and he responded to them by quoting General William Tecumseh Sherman of Civil War fame: " `If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.' "
During that week, Leung and his friends made more signs and posted them around the hallways of the main academic buildings. "We worked from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. hanging up signs," said Shounak Lahiri '96, who is also in 18.02.
On Oct. 30, Leung and his friends taped banners high up on the walls of 26-100, where 18.02 lectures are held, and then raised the blackboards to hide the banners. When Rogers arrived, he lowered the blackboards, and as they came down they unveiled the banners. One banner said, "Hartley Rogers for President," while another claimed, "It's intuitively transparent!" The students broke out in applause.
Election Day finale
Leah Schechter '96 and her friends planned a finale for the next 18.02 lecture, which took place on Election Day. They made large letters which spelled out the message "Hartley Rogers for President. The intuitively obvious choice." They taped the message on the large movie screen in 26-100 and then fully retracted the screen. They also wrote Rogers a note asking him to lower the screen at the end of Tuesday's class.
Near the end of Tuesday's class, Rogers talked about his campaign for fifth grade class secretary, and then he lowered the movie screen.
At the same time, Jason K. Bucy '96 maneuvered a remote control car back and forth across the stage. In a play on Rogers' name, the car was decorated with painted cardboard to look like a trolley from the television show "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." The trolley also had a campaign sign on it.
Jennifer R. Mills '96 then stood in the middle of the lecture hall and played a tape with the theme song from "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." The other students rose in a standing ovation and cheered loudly.
`I loved it!'
Professor Rogers took all the campaign signs and banners in good cheer. "I loved it!" he said. He also said he thought the signs were clever and funny.
This is not the first year that students have poked fun at his expressions such as "intuitively obvious."
"I've had people write me poems about it," he noted.