Public Servant and Aquinas Graduate Gives Back
Gaining an Aquinas education often inspires students to look outside themselves, in the community, the country and the world-at-large, to give back. This manifests itself in many ways and through a variety of programs. There also exists in many students a sense of healthy pride and gratitude that ensures they maintain a long-standing relationship with Aquinas College through the years. One such student is John Rogers, a 1981 AQ graduate whose career has not kept him from volunteering for his alma mater.
Rogers graduated from Aquinas in what is now commonly described as Human Resources. Despite having many family members who had attended a different college program, at least one connection played a vital role in encouraging Rogers to give Aquinas the chance. “My dad was Aquinas College Class of ’51 and he said, ‘Let’s just fly over and take a look at the place,’” said Rogers when describing his journey to Aquinas as a student from Wisconsin. “So my sister, my dad and I came over in 1976 - or maybe ’77 - and Paula Meehan was a counselor. She walked us around the place and had lunch. And I went, ‘OK, this is it. This is my place.’”
What about Aquinas drew Rogers in so completely after only one visit? “We often say that the campus is what sells Aquinas College, and that worked for me,” he said. Besides the beautiful campus, Rogers’ father made a connection with an old friend during that first visit. The sense of “a small-town feeling,” as he describes it, also won Rogers over, cementing a relationship with the College that would define him for much of his life.
Following his graduation from Aquinas, Rogers has had a varied career: from his work building cruise missile engines for the U.S. Department of Defense - “It was the height of the Cold War, so that was very much in the picture” - to serving as an insurance claims adjustor. Service being one of the charisms, or key teachings, of Aquinas College, many graduates leave with a heart-felt appreciation for the value of their work in the community. Rogers has always had a sense of the importance of public service, as he is a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary - “I joined right after the 9/11 attacks” - and a volunteer for FEMA.
There’s another service role that Rogers has filled, one which capitalizes on his passion for Aquinas College and utilizes his strengths in working and communicating with people of all kinds. “For probably twenty-five out of the last thirty-some years since I graduated, I’ve worked at least at one to two, sometimes more, Aquinas college fairs per year,” Rogers said. “It’s my chance to give back to Aquinas. I think it was such a good experience for me [and] for my father. It’s like I want to be the gospel-spreader, get the word out. Not many people have heard of Aquinas. In fact, I was the only student from Wisconsin when I went there for the first year.”
Rogers believes that Aquinas’ strengths are being discovered by students from outside Michigan. “We’re finally making inroads into the Chicago area, big time,” he said. “So people are starting to hear of Aquinas. I want other people to know about it!” Rogers reminisced about first reading a recruitment material from the College all those years ago. “They said, ‘We emphasize not just a job, but a career, which is the whole picture of your life.’”
Rogers is a testament to an Aquinas education, which prepares students for long-term success while contextualizing their place in the wider world and empowering them to serve others. “They don’t just prepare you for a job... a 9-to-5... we want to prepare you for a career,” Rogers said. “It’s the community and service. I look at the people who have graduated from Aquinas, and what they’ve done, and there’s a whole lot of service... I think people need to know about that.”