After the death of President Urian Oakes, Increase Mather promptly emerged as the first-choice successor. But Mather was not yet to rule the Harvard roost: his church would not release him from his pastoral obligations. Another candidate was offered the job. He too declined.

Finally in spring 1682, the Governing Boards found a willing choice in John Rogers (1630-1684), who at age 6 had crossed the Atlantic with his parents to settle in New England. Cotton Mather remembered Rogers as a sweet-tempered, genuinely pious, and accomplished gentleman given to long-windedness at daily prayers. With such personal charm and character, Rogers “might well have made a successful president,” in the estimation of Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morison.

But through no fault of his own, Rogers continued the disruptive trend set in motion during the Hoar administration (1672-1675). Whatever his presidential gifts, Rogers had no chance to display them. Little more than two years after his election, he died most inauspiciously on July 12, 1684 (the day after Commencement; = July 2 in the Julian calendar then used by English colonists), during a total solar eclipse.