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Remembering Jim Rogers: Partner Lou Wiener inspired his philanthropy

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Updated: 6/21 4:16 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- After making a fortune in broadcasting, Jim Rogers became one of the nation’s most generous philanthropists.

The media company Rogers built, beginning with KSNV in Las Vegas and growing to 16 stations, made him a rich man. His best friend and business partner during much of his life, Lou Wiener Jr., once made a pitch to him that changed life.

“Lou used to come in here and sit right there on that couch” Rogers recalled during an interview in his office on Foremaster Lane. “And he would say to me, ‘Let's go over your monthly payments.’ And he would say, ‘You know you have the right to establish any standard of living you want. So we will go through the figures.’ And he would say, ‘OK, now this is what it costs you to live, and this is how much you’ve got … and we’re going to give the rest of it away. Because as smart as we think we are, nobody is smart enough to gather all this money that we’ve got. And we’ve been very fortunate we get to live in Las Vegas, and Jim you and I just happened to be standing in the outfield with the glove out, when the ball dropped in.’ And I would say, ‘Louie, you know I think that's a hell of a good idea.’”

Since improving higher education and making it accessible to more young people was one of his biggest passions, Rogers decided the obvious place to put his money was in colleges and universities.

Recalling another conversation with Wiener, Rogers said: “And he would say, ‘Let me tell you how much I give to Boalt Hall, which is the University of California Law School. How much do you give to your law school? Because if you didn’t have your legal education, Jim, you wouldn’t have anything.’ And that was true. So we kind of started to formulate this concept that, you know, we had it. But we hadn’t really earned it. And that is was ours legally but morally we had an obligation to do good things with it. And we sat down and, you know, over the period of a long time that we’d supported education. Louis was my mentor and was my best friend and my partner.”

When Wiener died in 1996, Rogers said he felt a life-changing turning point. He would honor his best friend’s memory by following through on the plan they had developed together.
He did not do it alone. His wife Beverly was just as enthusiastic about the plan to use their money to improve the lives of people they would never meet for many years into the future.

“She's the sweetest person I've ever known,” Rogers said of Beverly. “She's very supportive with all of the things we do.”

The Rogers began making substantial donations to various colleges and universities, and to local schools such as the Lou Wiener Elementary and Lucille Rogers Elementary School, named for Jim’s mother.

The Rogers’ $130 million gift and pledge to his alma mater, the University of Arizona College of Law, is the largest gift ever made to any American law school. In 1998, the Arizona Board of Regents renamed the school “The James E. Rogers School of Law.”

Among many other contributions, the Rogers committed $28.5 million to UNLV’s William Boyd School of Law, where Jim was a member of the dean’s council.

Rogers received degrees in accounting and law from the University of Arizona, and a master of laws from the University of Southern California. He was a teaching fellow at the University of Illinois Law School. He held honorary doctorates from the University of Arizona, UNLV, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Albertson College of Idaho, Carroll College of Montana, Kentucky Wesleyan College and Gonzaga University of Washington.

He also earned a master of international law from Arizona and was a member of the state bar associations of Nevada, California and Arizona.

Time magazine listed him as one of the top 12 philanthropists in the nation after his gifts and pledges reached more than $275 million.

“I’m a risk taker,” Rogers said. “I really enjoyed making money. I don't care anything about having it. And to me, the hunt is everything. The kill is very little. As it’s designed, my last check should bring my bank balance to zero.”

Speaking of the university in his own town, UNLV, Rogers said: “I think the last great puzzle, part of the puzzle, for a first-class culture in this area is a fine university. We have everything else. We really do. We have all the trappings of success, but that doesn't develop a great culture and only a university can do that.”

READ PART 5: Remember Jim Rogers: Stern face hid sense of humor

READ PART 3: Jim Rogers: Donating his money and time to education

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