"Speak up and speak out": John Rogers Jr., LAB'76, discusses socially responsible investing

John Rogers Jr

To cap its celebration of Black History Month, the Harris School of Public Policy featured investor John W. Rogers Jr., LAB’76, in a fireside chat with Dean Katherine Baicker that revisited Chicago’s history as a “mecca for African American entrepreneurs” and framed ways to ensure success for the next generation of leaders.

Rogers, founder and chairman of Ariel Investments and a University of Chicago trustee, drew a crowd that filled the Keller Center Forum on a sunny Friday afternoon. His and Baicker’s February 24 discussion centered largely on socially responsible investing and its impact. But lighter moments included Rogers recalling his days as captain of the Princeton University varsity basketball team, where he played alongside Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s brother. Michelle Obama, he said, “was always the little sister of this great player” and Barack Obama, was initially “just a boyfriend of that little sister.” Rogers became an early supporter of Barack Obama’s political aspirations and co-chaired the former president’s 2009 inauguration and now serves on the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board. 

Baicker pressed Rogers, a Chicago native, on how at the age of 24 he had the courage to set off on his own, founding Ariel in 1983 with funds raised from family and friends.

“I made the leap because I had an investment strategy and philosophy that I really believed in and that I thought would make money for my clients,” said Rogers. And he had a network in Chicago. 

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This story was first published by Harris School of Public Policy. 

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