Obituary: Francis G. ‘Buck’ Rodgers

Business icon, motivational speaker and accomplished author

Francis G. “Buck” Rodgers died on July 1. The son of Harry L. and Hazel Grove Rodgers, Mr. Rodgers was born Aug. 18, 1926 in Alliance, Ohio. He lived in Darien for the last 46 years.

Mr. Rodgers grew up in an Irish household that included his grandparents, Anna and Francis Grove, his parents, his twin brother, and Al Byron, an adopted brother. Mr. Rodgers graduated from Alliance High School in 1944, making a mark as class officer his four years, quarterback of the football team, basketball and baseball player. He enlisted in the Air Force upon graduation, having declined an offer to play baseball with the then-St. Louis Browns. After the war, Mr. Rodgers attended Miami University where he played football under coach Woody Hayes and was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. It was there that he met Helen Loucks. On their first date, he told her they would marry. They would enjoy 62 years of marriage until her death in 2013.

After graduating from Miami in 1950, Mr. Rodgers joined IBM as a sales trainee in Cleveland, Ohio. Mr. Rodgers was with the IBM Corporation for 34 years. Moving up the marketing ranks, Mr. Rodgers held positions as a computer special representative, a branch manager and the industry director of IBM’s banking, finance, and brokerage business. For five years, he ran the western region division, initiating creative programs to motivate the sales force. In 1967, he became president of the data processing division, the U.S. organization for all computer products and services. For 10 years, he was IBM’s vice president of marketing, responsible for worldwide marketing activities, which encompassed IBM’s domestic divisions and operations in 131 foreign countries. He was a well-regarded speaker at IBM’s 100% Clubs and Golden Circles with his signature dapper attire and effortless, yet inspirational style, his family said. Mr. Rodgers took early retirement on July 1, 1984 to pursue a career as an author and lecturer.

Renowned within the business world as a motivator, articulator of ideas, and practitioner of excellence, Rodgers was considered one the most dynamic speakers in America, his family said. His audiences spanned a wide range of business, academia, trade association, and civic groups. He was cited by USA Today as one of America’s five most requested speakers. His trademark topics included Riding The Winds of Change and The Essence of Leadership.

Mr. Rodgers’ first book, The IBM Way, was a worldwide best-seller. His second best-seller, Getting The Best Out Of Yourself and Others, serves as a practical motivational guide for the business, political, and academic worlds. He also is one of the individuals exemplified in the books The Ten Greatest Salespersons and The Perfect Sales Presentation,and quoted extensively in In Search of Excellence.

Mr. Rodgers served as director on seven corporate boards. He was named the 1987 marketing Statesman of the Year by Sales and Marketing Executives International.

In 1999, he received the lifetime achievement award from Sales and Marketing Executives International. Ohio State University honored Mr. Rodgers as the first recipient of the Arthur Cullman Award for enhancing the relationship between business and academia. He was a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and a Purdue University Old Masters Program participant. Mr. Rodgers was honored with a doctor of laws from his alma mater, Miami University in 1982, and honorary doctorates from Hartwick College, Mt. Union University and St. Thomas Aquinas College. He received the keys to both the city of his birth, Alliance, Ohio and Fairfield, Ohio, the home of Mercantile Stores.

An accomplished golfer, Mr. Rodgers won seven club championships at four different clubs, made numerous holes-in-one, and shot his age for at least a decade. He was a member of Wee Burn Country Club in Darien and both Windsor and Johns Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla. He excelled in tennis and was a dedicated runner.

Mr. Rodgers inspired many individuals in business and throughout his personal life. That legacy will continue through the Buck Rodgers Leadership Program at Miami University’s Farmer School of Business. Its mission is to “transform the business students of today and build the passionate leaders of tomorrow.”

Mr. Rodgers was predeceased by his wife of 62 years, Helen L. Rodgers and his daughter-in-law, Linda Browne Rodgers. He is survived by his three children, Christy Ann Rodgers of Snowmass Village, Colo., Scott Francis Rodgers of Indianapolis, Ind., and Kathy Rodgers Heckert of Ridgefield; seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild; his twin brother, William H. Rodgers of Mission Viejo, Calif., three nephews and one niece.

On July 17 at 11 a.m., a mass of Christian Burial will be held at St. John’s Parish, 1986 Post Road, followed by burial at Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien. Memorial donations in Mr. Rodgers’s memory may be made to the Buck Rodgers Leadership Program, Attn: Kirk Bogard, Farmer School of Business, Miami University, 800 High Street, Oxford, OH 45056.

— by The Darien Times