Dick Rogers: A True Lancer

If you asked Lancer alumni to describe the typical candidate for a bid, being an athlete would probably rank high on the list. That is especially so in the last couple of decades, a period during which the club drew heavily from trinity’s varsity football program. But that has not always been the case. For much of its existence, the Bengal Lancer fraternity included men who certainly were not athletically gifted. Many strong Lancers never played a varsity sport. One such Lancer was Dick Rogers.

Richard Harrell “Dick” Rogers Dick was born on May 6, 1941 in Waco, near the start of WWII.  He and his family moved to San Antonio shortly thereafter. Dick excelled at academics. He was also a gifted artist. And, he was popular among his fellow students. As a senior at Jefferson High School, he was elected Class President and named by the Express-News as an Outstanding Young Man of San Antonio. Everyone who knew him, knew he was destined to do great things.

 

Dick entered Trinity to study art and engineering. He was brilliant and creative. While a student at Trinity, he won the state sculpture competition sponsored by the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. But he was not an athlete. He never played a sport. His talents lay elsewhere.

Those who knew Dick Rogers remember him as a tough-as-nails, true-red Lancer. Dick pledged in 1959, shortly after the club transformed itself from a one-year freshman spirit club to a four-year fraternity. The rules were more relaxed back then, and hazing was the norm. The Lancers “hazed” with gusto. Dick is remembered as being gung ho and a leader within his pledge class, completing every task laid before him, despite not having the physical abilities that many of his pledge brothers had. After pledging, he continued to be a leader within the Lancer organization. Dick Rogers was special.

 

After graduating from Trinity, Dick went on to become an internationally renowned artist and sculptor. His works have been exhibited in many galleries and public places across the United States, Mexico, Europe and Africa.

His early work involved large geometric silk-screen paintings. In the early 70's, he and artist Robert Indiana were featured in an exhibit at The McNay Museum. In 1967, his first large sculpture, Untitled, was installed at the Parkway Presbyterian Church in Corpus Christi.

Dick loved creating huge outdoor sculptures. He had a unique way of working on these projects, hoisting himself into the air in a sling to work far above the ground on his large-scale art pieces. Many of these huge, metal pieces are displayed around San Antonio.

 

Vector One (now at The McNay) was first installed at Hemisfair in 1968. In 1972 and 1973, Jacob’s Ladder and Transcendent Reflection were installed at The McNay. That same year Dick was named Artist of the Year by The San Antonio Art League.

 

In 1978, his first major pieces in San Antonio, Centered Disk and Lotus were installed. A few years later, in 1981, The University of Texas Health Science Center commissioned Double Helix (located at the corner of Medical and Floyd Curl). This sculpture was recognized across the country in a new era of large-scale sculpture in public places. Daedalus, commissioned in 1976, is on permanent exhibit at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum.

 

Back in San Antonio, Colonnade was commissioned and installed in 1985 at The Colonnade mixed use development in the Medical Center area, where it remains as the center’s focal point.

 

Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Dick continued to produce world-renowned art installations. Later in life, he turned his creativity to industrial design, becoming an inventor and businessman, receiving five patents for his designs.

 

For the last 20 years of his life, Dick focused his work on helping the physically handicapped. Working closely with his son, Mack, he founded Adorno-Rogers Technology to produce wheelchairs of his own, unique design, incorporating a folding mechanism that made transporting the chairs easier.

Beyond his popularity, leadership skills, artistic talent, and engineering ability, you may wonder what made Dick Rogers so unique among his fellow Bengal Lancers.

 

Well, here is the rest of his story…

 

Shortly after starting high school, Dick was in a horrible car accident. He was just 15. The accident left him paralyzed  below the waist and confined to a wheelchair. He suffered from numerous complications, and his doctors predicted he wouldn't live past his 20th birthday. With grit and determination, he beat that estimate by half a century.

 

From the start, Rogers refused to be limited by his disability. After a year of rehabilitation, he insisted on returning to Jefferson High School. “In those days there was only one school for children with disabilities,” said his wife MarJo Rogers. “And he said, ‘No, I'm going back to Jefferson,' and they let him.” His schoolmates would carry him up and down the stairs in his wheelchair. In his senior year, he was elected class President.

At Trinity, Dick found ways to move around a campus that was not wheelchair-friendly. This was long before the installation of the elevators which now connect upper and lower campus. Imagine navigating Cardiac Hill in a wheelchair. Dick found ways to overcome that obstacle.

Dick’s tenacity spoke to the men of the Bengal Lancers, who extended him a bid. Dick refused to let his disabilities keep him from participating fully with his pledge class. In fact, he was known as the first to volunteer and the last to quit. He was an inspiration not only to his fellow Lancers but to all Trinity students.

Dick passed away on November 8, 2012 at the age of 71. He outlived his doctor’s predictions by 5 decades.

 

As the Bengal Lancers look to regrow and reestablish the club, there has been much discussion of what makes the ideal Lancer. There has also been considerable debate about how to reshape the traditional pledge program to fit modern sensibilities. Lancers who experienced the physically challenging ordeals of traditional pledging have a hard time imagining an orientation program which does not require physical strength and athletic endurance. But looking back to the days when the Founders of the Four Year club designed the original Lancer pledge program, the legacy of Dick Rogers illustrates that they did not intend to exclude non-athletes or the physically challenged. Dick Rogers is proof that it is what is on the inside of a man that matters.. Mental strength. Maturity. Determination. Leadership. Self-confidence. Courage. All of the attributes which describe Dick Rogers. 

Dick Rogers in 6th Grade
Dick Rogers in 6th Grade
Dick Rogers Sculpture Colonade
Dick Rogers Sculpture "Colonade"
Dick Rogers PC '59
Bengal Lancers in 1960
Bengal Lancers in 1960, Dick Rogers seated

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