W. Yandell "Tog" Rogers, Jr. '61
September 30, 2012
By Mark Curriden
Tog Rogers is giving back. His $12.1 million gift for scholarships is the second largest gift in the history of the law school.
Wiley Yandell “Tog” Rogers, Jr. was enjoying barbeque at the Pig Stand in Austin in 1958 just four days before he was scheduled to start law school. He had an undergraduate degree, but he wanted to add a law degree to his resume.
His plan was to work his way through law school with the money he made.
“I overheard this guy tell the manager of the Pig Stand that he was an electrical engineer graduate but that he needed a job washing dishes,” Rogers remembers. “I thought, if that man couldn’t find a job, I probably didn’t have a chance.”
That day, he drove to Dallas, where he thought his odds at getting a job were better.
“I applied on Friday, and classes started Monday,” says Rogers, who was in the class of 1961. “At the end of my first year, I was offered a scholarship, which was arranged by Professor Roy Ray, who taught Evidence, and it meant that I could stay in school. The scholarship impacted the rest of my life.”
Five decades later, Rogers’s generous gift will impact generations of students to come.
The long-time lawyer and Texas businessman has announced that he has given a remainder interest from his charitable remainder trust to SMU Dedman School of Law. The gift is valued at more than $12.1 million.
The law school will receive a lump-sum cash payment in 2020. The entire gift will go to the law school’s scholarship endowment fund.
“I’m paying back a debt,” says Rogers. “I came to SMU Law School unannounced, and without the scholarship, I wouldn’t have made it. This gift is to help other people in need do what I was able to do.”
Tog Rogers was born in Tyler. His father was an independent oilman, and their family moved several times when Tog was a boy. He attended the fourth grade in a one-room schoolhouse in Western Kentucky. But along the way, he became enamored with the law. He says he has so many memories about his time at SMU.
“In 1961, a group of us were meeting at the Lawyers Inn and we met Bobby Kennedy,” he says. “We asked him if he would ever lie to a judge. He said, ‘Of course I would, if it would help my mother.’ We thought that was great.”
Rogers clerked for Texas Supreme Court Justices Clyde Smith and Joe Greenhill. Rogers then spent several years as a lawyer at the law firm that is now known as Gardere.
“I was the 13th lawyer at the firm,” he says. “I always thought I was pretty damn smart, but the lawyers I worked with there were very smart.”
Rogers was in the firm’s litigation practice, and he represented a handful of major celebrities. For example, he represented Mickey Mantle in a bankruptcy-related case in which a New Jersey bowling alley went belly up. Mantle was a part owner. For some reason, the bowling alley’s lawyers put Mantle’s naming rights in the deal, which the bankruptcy trustee saw as having great value.
“Mickey got me great seats to the game and I got to visit the dugout,” Rogers recalls. “Those were great experiences.”
In 1967, Rogers moved to Houston to become general counsel at Ridgway Blueprinting, a small, publicly traded company.
“Ridgway didn’t trust me or anyone, and working for him was nearly impossible,” he says. “The company was horribly managed. I told him during a meeting in New York one evening that I was quitting. The next morning, he made me president of the company.”
A few years later, Rogers took Ridgway private and purchased the entire company. He sold it to ARC in 2000.
His education and training in law, Rogers says, helped him every step of the way as a business leader.
“Law school helps make you comfortable doing business and not having to worry that you are doing or saying the wrong thing,” he says.
“I can honestly say that my years at SMU Law School helped prepare me for all the issues I would later face in business.”
Rogers is equally proud that he and his wife, Suzie, have five children, three of whom are SMU alumni.