PINEVILLE, La. (WNTZ) – Emily Jean Rodgers, LCU Class of 2020, would have been celebrating her 25th birthday this week. Instead her family and friends are sharing memories and pictures on social media—trying to make her first birthday since her death in September as joyous as possible.
“Though Emily’s heavenly homecoming has left an earthly gap in our family, we are forever grateful to know Emily is in the arms of Jesus because she asked Him to be her Savior at the age of 10,” said her parents, Jeri and Joey Rodgers. “We miss her light and fun and spunk tremendously, but we rejoice that she is whole and healthy at the foot of God’s throne.”
The Rodgers family and Emily’s major professor Dr. Elizabeth Clarke have established the Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship to honor her memory and legacy at her beloved alma mater.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to keep Emily alive on campus for years and years to come,” Clarke said. “Anyone who knew Emily—when you think of her, you think Jesus, her family and LCU. I want future students to know the name Emily Rodgers and aspire to be the shining example of a Christian—and just a wonderful human like she was.”
Emily died Sept. 22 in Foley, Alabama after suffering a pulmonary embolism to her left lung. She had battled Lyme disease for two and a half years and in August had surgery to remove an abdominal cyst. While the specific cause of the blood clot is unknown, any of these things can possibly lead to one.
Emily was the “poster child for vivaciousness,” mom Jeri Rodgers said, noting even her first word as a baby was not ‘mama’ or ‘dada’—it was ‘light.’
From her very start, she literally brought light with her everywhere she went. And it’s impossible to find anyone who would disagree.
Growing up, Emily was the friend everyone counted on, Jeri said. From a young age, her very favorite summer activity was Vacation Bible School; and starting when she was 12, she would lead in the worship rally in three or four different churches in her home county in Alabama every year until she graduated high school. This led her to participate in the Go Louisiana summer missions VBS team (GOLA) sponsored by the Louisiana Baptist Convention the summers after her sophomore and junior years in high school at Louisiana Christian University (formerly Louisiana College).
“She was full of life and light and joy, and she loved to share that with those around her,” Jeri said. “She liked to ‘know and be known.’”
Emily’s parents, Jeri Page Rodgers, Class of ’87, and Joey Rodgers, Class of ’84, met at LCU. And Emily, who became a Christian at age 10, decided as a junior in high school, that she wanted to attend LC so she could both continue to grow in her faith and extend her family legacy. It also allowed her to live near her Louisiana grandmother in West Monroe and extended family in Hall Summit for the first time in her life.
Her light just grew brighter once she arrived on campus as a freshman in the fall of 2016.
“Emily lit up a room even before she walked into it,” Clarke said. “You could hear her coming, her loud enthusiasm for whatever was on the menu for discussion that day, and you couldn’t help but smile.
“If you ever had a class with Emily, you knew her, her mama and daddy, her brother Drayton, her grandma—you knew them all from the stories she would share—whether you were in the mood to hear about them or not.”
Emily, a public relations major, served as an LC ambassador, a member of the marching band who helped restart the color guard, a member of the symphonic band, and was a member of the Baptist Campus Ministries and on the BCM leadership team her senior year. As a freshman she was a cheerleader until a shoulder injury forced her to step aside, and she played three years of intramural basketball.
The Page and Rodgers’ family legacy at LCU is deep. Jeri’s brother Scott Page graduated in 1980, and sister Julie attend from 1988-90. And Joey’s sister Jeri Rodgers Beachy attended graduated from LCU in 1977.
Emily’s family even named their cat for their beloved alma mater, LC.
LCU Bookstore Manager Linda Billingsley said she knew from the moment she met Emily they would be forever friends.
“I enjoyed watching her encourage other people with her positive attitude,” Billingsley said. “Her school spirit was like no other. From Mom’s Weekend where she and her mom Jeri dressed up in their pajamas, to game days where she and I were the only people on campus with the royal blue and orange overalls that were loud and fun at the same time. Emily would stop in to talk with Carla Jowers and me for no reason, which we always enjoyed. To know Emily was to love her. She will forever be in my heart.”
Emily made some of her best friends on campus at LCU. She never met a stranger who didn’t turn into a friend.
“I met Emily in 2016 when we were both freshmen,” said Maya Rushing. “We had math together, which was not and is not one of my strong suits. I’m very thankful for my lack of understanding because it presented me the opportunity for me to ask for advice. That small moment blossomed into almost seven years of friendship. She was the embodiment of love and light. She was always there for you no matter the time, distance, or day.”
Rebecca Prosperie Brown was Emily’s roommate for three years at LCU, but their friendship started in childhood in Sunday School class, Vacation Bible School and summer camps. Emily was to be a bridesmaid in Brown’s wedding in October—a day the two friends had dreamed about and talked about for years.
“Sadly, she was not able to physically be there to walk down the aisle and stand up there that day. I knew that she needed to be represented in some way because of how much she has meant to me,” Brown said. “One of my other bridesmaids, who was also a good friend of Emily’s, carried Emily’s bouquet down the aisle with hers and placed Emily’s bouquet in a beautiful vase that was on stage so that she would be there with us. I know her spirit was smiling down on us and sharing in that moment.”
Emily never forgot to make others feel good because it was her nature. She didn’t have to try to do it, Clarke said. It was who she was. She remembered birthdays and first days. Every fall, she never forgot to send a text to let me know she hoped it was the start of a great school year. She celebrated others’ accomplishments and she mourned with them over their losses.
Fellow PR major and alumnus Abby Sterling, of Beaumont, Texas, said she found a forever friend in a polar opposite in Emily.
“Emily and I were both majoring in public relations, so we just so happened to take a lot of the same classes together,” Sterling said. “She was the quirky, super organized, giddy, ‘larger than life’ gal who sat in the front of the classroom, so I immediately knew that If I ever needed help with an assignment or missed the lecture notes, she was going to be the one who I’d ask. It wasn’t long into the semester when we began choosing each other for group projects and began to develop a real, genuine bond.”
Shortly after Sterling graduated from LCU, she lost her mother.
“The last time that I saw Emily was at my Mom’s funeral service,” Sterling said. “I vaguely remember that day because I was so overwhelmed with emotions. But one thing I do remember and will never forget is seeing Emily walk in. I was shocked to see her because the drive from Gulf Shores, Alabama to my hometown in Beaumont, Texas took about seven hours, so I just didn’t expect her to be there. But she was. She gave me the biggest hug and comforted me. In that moment, I felt loved and a sense of peace, like everything was going to be OK. I am beyond thankful to have connected with such a person full of light in this world and losing her is painful to so many.”
Clarke said she taught Emily in numerous classes over her four years at LCU and served as her major adviser.
“One of the funniest things she said to me during her last semester as a senior when we were about to shut down for the COVID-19 corona virus—after having discovered she had Lyme disease earlier in the year—was if she got the virus then she would have corona with a splash of Lyme. This Southern Baptist girl always had jokes!”
Emily’s legacy will continue at LCU, as the Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship—upon being fully funded—will annually award a student in the communication field who exemplifies those traits that made Emily such a remarkable young woman—her loyalty to family and friends, her love of LCU, her diligence in her studies, and her deep devotion to her Savior.
Donors may make a one-time contribution or a monthly or annual contribution.
To make a one-time donation to the Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship fund, you may mail checks directly to: Louisiana Christian University, Office of Institutional
Advancement, C/O: Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship Fund, 1140 College Drive, Pineville, LA 71360. Please put the Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship in the memo of your check.
Or, from the home page of the lcuniversity.edu website, you may click on invest in LCU orange tab on the top right of the page. On the Invest in LCU Page, click on what you would like your donation to support. On that drop down menu click on Endowed Scholarships. When you click Endowed Scholarships, a new box will appear and then you need to type in “Emily Jean Rodgers Memorial Scholarship” and whether you will be giving a one-time or monthly donation.
For more information about attending the university Emily loved so much, please visit LCU admissions web page.