23 Mar, 2023
Written by Rhonnel Sotelo, Chief Executive Officer
Building a talented, cohesive team and unleashing them with the flexibility and freedom to own and lead their work is one of the Rogers Family Foundation’s core values. Throughout the remainder of our timeline, we will share our appreciations and reflections on the distinct qualities, accomplishments, and contributions of each Rogers Family Foundation team member. We kick this series off with Brian Rogers who led the Foundation for over 20 years.
Keep students at the center. Empower a great, hopeful team and let them lead. Be passionate and listen. It’s one thing to adopt organizational values, and another to live them. For two decades, Brian Rogers did that nearly every day. He is the principal author, publisher, and distributor of the Rogers Family Foundation’s purpose-driven culture, extraordinary work environment, and its long-standing commitment to Oakland’s students, families, and schools.
Brian may also be the kindest and most genuine person who has ever worked in philanthropy. “People described him to me as one of the nicest men on the planet,” says Cynthia Suter, the Foundation’s Senior Executive Assistant. “After having the pleasure of working with him for nearly 11 years, I concur that he is indeed one of the nicest people I have ever met and am truly grateful for our years together.”
Brian’s superpower is his capacity to bring out the very best in others by revealing the best of himself: thoughtfulness, hopefulness, intelligence – intellectual and emotional – and an authentic goodness of heart. “He always approached his role and responsibility as a leader in Oakland and in its education sector with both humility and urgency,” says former Rogers Family Foundation Board member Nicole Taylor, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Community Foundation. “He understood that children’s futures were on the line, and there was no time to waste. He pushed for forward movement, progress, and outcomes. Outcomes for the students and their families. It was an honor to partner with Brian and watch him lead.”
A serial entrepreneur, Brian embodied the Foundation’s tagline of ‘Go Out and Do Good.’ Change happens – he would tell us – beyond our office walls and can only be built through trusting relationships with schools and communities throughout Oakland. “What I particularly enjoyed about working with Brian was his clear-eyed view of what philanthropists can actually DO so that all kids in Oakland can have the same opportunities,” stated Bob Spencer, former Oakland Board of Education director and trustee of the William H. Donner Foundation. “He combined this efficacy with an open-heartedness that treated everyone with dignity and respect.” Among the organizations and collaborations Brian helped create include the Oakland Literacy Coalition, the Oakland Public Education Fund, GO Public Schools Oakland, the Oakland Charter Collaborative, and the Oakland Education Funders Group.
While Brian officially departed from the Foundation in January 2023, our team’s admiration, loyalty, and respect for him will be lifelong. We look forward to watching him bring that same joy of life as he spends more of his time succeeding and thriving as a husband, father, and son.