theGrio’s 100: John Rogers Jr., investment industry icon

Who is John W. Rogers Jr.?

John W. Rogers, Jr. is a Chicago native who grew up in an inspirational family. His father, John W. Rogers, Sr., was a Tuskegee Airman who piloted over 100 combat missions in World War II. His mother, Jewel Lafontant, was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Chicago Law School in 1946.

As a Princeton undergrad, John Jr. studied economics, dividing his free time between basketball, serving as captain of the 1979-80 Ivy League co-champions Princeton Tigers, and acquiring detailed knowledge of stock trading at a local brokerage house. He is still an avid basketball player who is known for occasionally playing with his former teammate Craig Robinson, whose sister is Michelle Obama. His biggest basketball bragging right is being known as the only person to beat Michael Jordan at a game of one-on-one in one of Jordan’s fantasy basketball camps.

In the ‘80s, Rogers was considered one of the foremost stock pickers in the country. He leveraged his credibility to create and grow Ariel Investments, now the largest minority-run mutual fund firm.

Why is John W. Rogers Jr. in theGrio’s 100?

It could be summed up as career excellence, social involvement and public service. His clarity of focus and pinpoint determination from a very young age make John W. Rogers, Jr. a man to be admired. Rogers excels in his field on an intellectual level and always finds time for fun on the basketball court. His level of public service is equally impressive, becoming the first African-American winner of a Woodrow Wilson Award for his service to Princeton, Chicago, financial and African-American communities. He is strongly involved in and has a profound positive impact on Rainbow/Push, the Oprah Winfrey Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

What’s next for John W. Rogers Jr.?

Rogers has a proven track record in training and support of the communities he serves. Look for him to support such endeavors such as the Ariel Community Academy, which he formed in collaboration with Arne Duncan before Duncan became education secretary. The school’s focus is on teaching inner-city kids about money.  Since 2005, the academic performance at Ariel Academy has surpassed that of Chicago district schools.