Chicago Connection: A Look At This Investor's Emerging Philanthropy

The son of a juvenile court judge and U.S. deputy solicitor general, John W. Rogers Jr. was born in Chicago and grew up in Hyde Park. When he was young, Rogers' father started giving him gifts of stocks for his birthday and other holidays—formative experiences in investing. After Rogers graduated from Princeton and worked as a stockbroker for a few years, he founded Ariel Investments, the first minority-owned mutual fund company, in 1983.

Headquartered in Chicago, Ariel Investments is a $10 billion mutual-fund company. Its president is fellow Princeton grad Mellody Hobson, who signed the giving pledge with her filmmaker husband George Lucas. While at Princeton, Rogers played basketball alongside Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama's older brother. Rogers was an early donor to the Barack Obama Foundation, and expects to help raise money for Obama's presidential library.

Clearly, the 58-year-old Rogers is among the Chicago elite. As he puts it, "I came home to Chicago with the attitude of wanting to be helpful, to be a good team player." So far, Rogers' nascent philanthropy primarily involves the Windy City, and like Hobson and that Star Wars creator, Rogers seems to have a strong interest in education. He's donated some $7 million to nonprofits so far, according to Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Rogers has given strong support to University of Chicago and its Lab Schools. Rogers and his daughter Victoria attended the Lab Schools and his parents are alumni of UChicago's law school. Rogers' mother, by the way, was the first African-American woman to graduate from the law school. Rogers has served on UChicago's board for years and was chairman of the Lab Schools board, during which time he helped raise $80 million for new buildings and programs. Rogers played a role in orchestrating a $25 million gift to the Lab Schools from Hobson and Lucas via their George Lucas Family Foundation.

Away from Chicagoland, Rogers has also supported his alma mater, Princeton. The former collegiate hoops player donated $1 million for athletic facilities and sits on the board. 

Rogers is also interested in financial literacy. He donated $1 million last decade to endow scholarships for eighth graders graduating from Ariel Community Academya public school located on the South Side of Chicago. The school emphasizes financial literacy in its curriculum. Rogers also co-chaired a presidential advisory council aimed at strengthening young people’s financial skills. 

It's worth mentioning that Rogers is also a director of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. His father was a Tuskegee Airman and his mother was a founding member of the Congress of Racial Equality.

Thus far, Rogers appears to be directing funds to organizations without a formal charitable vehicle. We'll see what happens in the coming years but Rogers is someone to watch going forward, particularly in his native city.

Related: John W. Rogers, Jr.