- Associated Press - Monday, December 4, 2017

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Age is only a number. Just ask recently sworn-in Norman lawyer Ben Rogers.

Rogers graduated in May from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and subsequently passed the Oklahoma Bar Exam, which is required to practice law in Oklahoma. And he did it all at the ripe age of 68.

“He’s going to do great things, and he’s going help a lot of people,” former Cleveland County Judge and current OU College of Law adjunct professor Rod Ring said.

Ring said when he first saw Rogers around the law school, he assumed he was a professor. Then he found out the student was only a few months younger than him.

“I didn’t realize Rogers was a student until I got a list of students that signed up for the legal clinic,” he told The Norman Transcript . “The list include their picture, and I looked down and saw Rogers. I was thinking about moving toward retirement, and he’s getting excited about finishing law school. Just that enthusiasm he had was incredible. He didn’t go to law school just to get a degree. He went because he wants to do good.”



Ring even went as far to say that he, as an instructor, learned a thing or two from Rogers.

“He taught me that you can only be patient with people so far,” he said. “If they’re not willing to do their part, you move on and put your time and energy into someone else.”

Approaching 70 years of age, a person is bound to have a story to tell. Rogers‘ doesn’t disappoint.

Born in Minneapolis, Rogers was the child of a college professor, so he and his family found themselves in Florida shortly after he was born.

His father took professorships at colleges like Florida State University, Jacksonville University and the University of South Florida, and eventually the former Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa.

Rogers attended Parsons for a year, but dropped out and enlisted in the Army. While attending college for that year, he discovered a passion that he would spend most of his life pursuing.

“I and my dorm mate started a sandwich business out of our dorm room,” Rogers said. “We made sandwiches in our dorm room and carried them around campus. Everybody knew us.”

After finishing his military service in 1975, Rogers found himself in Virginia and without a job. But he remembered he had some food service background.

Rogers continued working in restaurants and bars and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1986, where he met his wife Margi.

Rogers later became a general contractor, building expensive homes until the market tanked in the late 1980s.

“I went from $3 million in construction, to making $50,000 in one year,” Rogers said.

The couple then moved to southern Virginia to pursue other opportunities.

“I’m now in Virginia with no clients, no base, and no architects that are feeding me work,” Rogers said. “I decided to take the experience I had as a chef, general contractor and running multi-unit operations, and open up my own restaurant.”

Rogers said he opened the first San Antonio Sam’s, which he described as a Texas-style restaurant, around 1990. He then opened a second in 1992 and a later a third in Chesapeake.

He sold the restaurants after about 15 years when his wife had an opportunity to be an assistant vice president of claims for GEICO Insurance, so the two packed up and left for San Diego.

Now retired and in “America’s Finest City,” Rogers was presented with an opportunity to serve on a jury, which later spawned the thought of him going to law school.

The case was the United States government versus Western Titanium, Inc.

“It was a criminal trial of three corporations and five human beings,” Rogers said.

The trial was halted in the middle of proceedings, and the jurors were dismissed.

Following the announcement, Western Titanium’s attorney Nancy Luque asked the jurors if they would be interested in speaking with her. Rogers obliged.

“I and maybe three other jurors go and debrief with them,” he said. “(Luque) took me to the side and said, ‘I’ve been doing this along time, and I’ve never met a juror who was involved in a complicated case such as this, and was able to understand what is going on as well as you. You would’ve been a great attorney.’”

Instead of going home and feeling really good about what Luque said, Rogers said he felt the exact opposite.

“I knew I had a lot of opportunities in my life as a young man, and I squandered them,” he said. “I felt embarrassed and kind of ashamed that I never did anything with my intellect other than a parlor trick to tell jokes behind the bar.”

And when an opportunity to go back to school presented itself, Rogers wasn’t going to let it pass by this time.

“I was looking to open a restaurant, and I had stopped at a stoplight in the southern part of San Diego when I saw a billboard that said ‘the University of Oklahoma, it’s your degree, go get it,’” he said.

That’s when everything clicked. He enrolled at OU and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice through the college’s outreach program, which allows students to earn their degree online.

Rogers then set his sights on law school. He applied to 10 schools and got into seven, including San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law. OU had waitlisted him, so he had sent in his $500, reserved his seat and planned to start at Thomas Jefferson in the fall of 2014.

Rogers said he wanted to have the graduation experience so he came down to Norman. While there, he received a surprise call from OU law.

“The law school called me the day I was there and said ‘we have some good new for you, we think we have a spot for you here at OU law, would you mind coming from San Diego to visit the campus?’” he said. “I said, “I’m two blocks away. I can be there in 10 minutes.”

Rogers decided to forgo the offer to attend Thomas Jefferson and enrolled at OU.

Rogers, who was at the time 65, said he didn’t know what to expect.

“I hadn’t been in a classroom since 1969 and no one was near my age,” he said. “I thought was I going to be accepted or was I just going to be the odd man out.”

Those worries quickly went away.

“Everyone treated me like anyone else,” Rogers said.

Ring wasn’t the only person who came in contact with Rogers that had positive things to say about him.

Ben has a great amount of conviction about him, as well a lot of world experience,” Norman lawyer Joanna Boyd said.

Boyd said even though she started law school in 2014 with Rogers, she didn’t officially meet him until they were both observing a murder trial in 2015.

After graduating from law school in May, she was looking to go into private practice, which meant she would have to find a building. Little did she know, Rogers was looking to do the same.

“We both attended a seminar about opening your own practice,” she said. “The topic about finding an office came up. We met at Old School Bagel Café, and we officially moved in Nov. 1. I’m excited to be down the hall from him.”

Now officially a lawyer, Rogers said he is willing to take on all cases.

___

Information from: The Norman Transcript, http://www.normantranscript.com

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