Gwinnett Police’s ‘John Doe’ Was Brenau Adjunct John Philip Rogers

The Brenau family mourns the loss of adjunct history and geography professor John Philip Rogers, who was positively identified yesterday by Gwinnett County Police as the person whose name the Georgia county law enforcement had been trying to determine since July 26. Rogers, who died Aug. 1, had been teaching history courses on the Brenau North Atlanta/Norcross campus since 2005. He was 62.

John Rogers cropped
Rogers was well-liked by students at both Brenau and Norcross High School, where he taught for close to three decades.

Rogers’ identity remained a mystery for days as police circulated pictures of his face taken in his hospital bed and asked for the public’s help tracking down family. That generated enough information for the authorities to locate Rogers’ son in California, who came to Georgia and made a positive identification on Thursday, Aug. 7.

“He was among the finest of the university’s cadre of adjunct professors,” said Jim Southerland, the retired provost and history department chair who hired Rogers to teach at Brenau. “He was always willing and eager to teach for us. He was an excellent teacher who was well liked and respected by his students. He was highly skilled in his use of technology in the classroom. I was impressed with his professionalism and his teaching skills.”

Brenau CFO David Barnett, who oversaw the Gwinnett campus as his first job at Brenau, remembers Rogers as “an avid cyclist.” Police said that, after they identified Rogers, they learned from neighbors and friends that he often walk, jogged and cycled in the area. They speculate that he probably was running or walking as part of his normal routine, which is why he had no identification when he was found. He was wearing shorts, running shoes, a T-shirt and a Tar Heels baseball cap from his alma mater

A U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare specialist who retired from active reserves as a commander in 1999, Rogers also recently retired from his long-time job as a well-liked, award-winning and innovative social studies teacher at Norcross High School. Previously, at Irwin County High School in Ocilla, Georgia, he taught all social studies classes and coach football and both girls and boys basketball. he also spent 10 years teaching at Georgia State University, where he had earned both education specialist and master’s degrees. He had two undergraduate degrees: one from the University of North Carolina in geography and from Florida State University in history.

Rogers went on active duty in the Navy right out of the ROTC program at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1973. After completing his active duty obligation in 1977, he got back into uniform in 1984. Before his retirement, he commanded three ships and spent his last eight years on the operations and intelligence staff for the United Kingdom and Mediterranean Sea regions.

In 2005, Mary Ann Charron, then principal at Norcross High School, described him as “outstanding teacher, leader, and most importantly, a truly admirable mentor to our students.”


“Seeing him as ‘John Doe’ was horrible. He has so many people that love him,” Angela Goodiel, a 2008 Norcross High graduate, told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “He was so genuinely interested in your life. And just an incredibly sweet guy. I really want everyone to know who he was and that he wasn’t  just a ‘John Doe’ who lived alone.” Click here to read the full story from Goodiel and some other former Rogers students. 

Update has no information at this time about funeral services or other arrangements.