By Steve Dodge, Rachel Burbank '09, and Leanne Santella '09
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When John Rodgers arrived in Forest Grove in 1971, he already had quite a bit of experience in the world. As a top student, he'd posed for a photo op with the mayor of San Francisco, met California Gov. Ronald Reagan, and been to the White House as an American Legion youth leader.
Rodgers '75 experienced the ostracism of the outsider as a kid from California attending grade school in Florida, and the overt racism of the Jim Crow South. The Sixties, he said, were a time when there was "a pressure cooker of forces" in the country, where everyone was being asked to take a stand on something. Though he admired Martin Luther King, Jr. and marched with the thousands when King came to San Francisco, Rodgers found his own individualism emerging from the tumult. A variety of mentors fueled his confidence, enough that he dreamed of fighting for justice as a lawyer, maybe even as president.
So he came to Pacific in part because it was distant from the struggles in the Bay Area, joining about 100 other African-American students on campus. He found the school and the city welcoming, and credits that nurturing for propelling him toward his goals. He didn't become president, but did earn a law degree and practiced law in Forest Grove for 11 years, focusing on family, criminal and business issues.