John W. Rogers Jr., business and education leader, named chair of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools board

Steve Kloehn
Associate Vice President for News and Public AffairsUniversity Communications

Alumnus, longtime trustee and education champion John W. Rogers Jr. will be the next chair of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools Board of Trustees, University President Robert J. Zimmer has announced.

Rogers, who graduated from Lab in 1976 and watched his daughter graduate last year, will assume the chair after more than 20 years of service on the board. He is currently an executive co-chairman of the Lab+ Campaign.

Rogers is known nationally as founding chairman and chief executive officer of Ariel Investments, as well as a longtime supporter of President Barack Obama and co-chairman of his Presidential Inauguration Committee. Throughout his professional and philanthropic career, improving the quality of education for children in Chicago has been a central mission and priority for Rogers.

Together with Lab alumnus Arne Duncan, now the U.S. Secretary of Education, Rogers launched a series of initiatives that culminated in the creation of Ariel Community Academy, a public elementary school in the Kenwood neighborhood. At the same time Rogers has been an active alumnus, parent, trustee and donor at Lab, supporting diversity efforts and scholarships.

"John brings to the board demonstrated leadership and determination that will serve the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools extraordinarily well," Zimmer said. "And he has a deep appreciation for the importance of education and its impact on students and their futures."

Rogers said that his belief in the power of education began with the extraordinary teachers he encountered at Lab-some of whom went on to teach his daughter, Victoria, before she graduated in 2008. He also recalls a level of faith and trust that faculty and staff puts in their students, which he believes is central to developing leadership skills.

"I think we are extraordinarily fortunate to be part of a community with such highly skilled, highly motivated teachers; with a highly motivated, highly skilled parent group; and with such highly motivated students," he said. "You plug all that into this world-class teaching and research institution, the University of Chicago, and I don't think there's anything else like that in the country."

Rogers, whose parents graduated from the University of Chicago Law School, came to the Laboratory Schools in ninth grade. He later earned an A.B. in economics at Princeton University, where he was captain of the basketball team, before returning to Chicago and founding Ariel Capital Management Inc. in 1983, at age 24.

Ariel went on to become the nation's largest minority-run family of funds, while Rogers was named Mutual Fund Manager of the Year in 1988 by Sylvia Porter's Personal Finance magazine. Rogers served on a number of corporate boards and is currently a director of three public companies: Aon Corp., Exelon Corp. and McDonald's Corp.

Rogers also became increasingly involved in the community, joining and chairing the board of the Urban League, and supporting Obama in a 1992 voter registration drive and the political campaigns that followed.

When Duncan returned from a professional basketball career in Australia, Rogers hired him to run what was then known as the Ariel Foundation. In 1991 the foundation "adopted" 40 sixth-graders at a South Side elementary school, promising to support them through college if they graduated from high school. That led to a series of programs around academic enrichment, mentoring, family support, leadership development and community service for students.

Eventually, through Mayor Richard Daley's New School Initiative Program, Ariel was awarded corporate sponsorship of Ariel Community Academy, a public elementary school that now shares a building with the North Kenwood/Oakland campus of the University of Chicago Charter School. Rogers remains active in the school as a member of the board of the Ariel Education Initiative.

"John brings a rare mix of experience with public and private schools, along with tremendous financial and organizational leadership," said David W. Magill, director of the Laboratory Schools. "And at the core of all his work in education is his belief that extraordinary teaching can establish the habits of lifelong learning."

Already a Lab trustee for more than a decade, Rogers was elected a University trustee in 2000. Along with scholarship and diversity efforts at Lab, he and his family also have supported facilities at the Law School and research at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

"The things I care a lot about fall under the theme of collaboration. I think we can foster more and better collaboration between the University and Lab. I think we can continue to build on the partnership with our extraordinary faculty, strengthening the faculty relationship with the board. I think we can build on our relationship with parents, students and alumni," he said.

Rogers succeeds David Strauss, a Lab Schools parent and the Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School, who has served as chairman of the board since 2003.

American philosopher and educator John Dewey founded the Laboratory Schools in 1896 to test and demonstrate his then-radical educational theories. Currently, the Laboratory Schools serve 1,767 students in nursery through high schools.