Editor’s Note: This story describes instances of people considering self-harm or suicide. If you or somebody you know needs help with mental health services, contact the Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service’s 24-hour Crisisline by calling 607-272-1616. For more information about the organization, visit their website here. 

ITHACA, N.Y. — A Cornell University officer was commended this week for likely saving a student’s life as the man stood on the edge of a bridge in May.

Officer Ron Rogers received the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month award Monday afternoon, presented by the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga.

CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner said Rogers was called to a bridge on College Avenue after a woman reported that a man was walking around inappropriately dressed for the weather. He wasn’t wearing shoes, didn’t have clothes on and was at the bridge point.

Officer Rogers showed up and was able to talk to the man, eventually grabbing him and helping him back onto solid ground.

“He absolutely was headed to find a good spot to jump,” Chief Kathy Zoner said. “Ron’s inference definitely saved this young mans life…For that we are all grateful.”

It’s not the first time Rogers has likely saved a person’s life as they considered jumping from the edge of a bridge or gorge. In his 23-year-career at the CUPD, he has grabbed or talked down three people from jumping.

In one instance more than 10 years ago, Rogers said he stood talking with a man who seemed to just need someone to listen to his problems.

The man’s wife had left him and he was coping with a gambling problem. Rogers said he was trying to think of a way to convince the man to come back over the railing of a bridge and told him, “You can’t do this in front of me. I’ve got to live with this the rest of my life.”

After hearing that, the man stepped away from the edge of a Stewart Avenue bridge.

Rogers doesn’t know what happened to the man or anyone else he has helped save. That information remains confidential. But as for the student he recently helped,  Rogers said someone told him the student was able to start getting help for the problems he was experiencing and has “heard he’s doing very well.”

District Attorney Matt Van Houten said during the award presentation that Rogers’ actions could have an impact on people for generations.

“This young man will have a family some day, and that wouldn’t have happened without your being on the spot and (doing) what you did,” Van Houten said. “That’s incredible to me and something to be truly proud of.”

When asked how it feels to help save a person’s life, Rogers modestly said, “It feels pretty good…We’ve all been through bad moments.”

Featured Photo (Left to right): CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner, Officer Ron Rogers, District Attorney Matt Van Houten, and Lynn Whetzel, Vice President of the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga.

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.