Scouters often say being an Eagle Scout opens the door to career opportunities. That was certainly Jim Rogers' experience.
Rogers graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972 -- a time when that university had become a national symbol for campus radicalism. When he contacted Kampgrounds of America for an interview, he got a quick, positive response. As an executive of the Billings, Montana, company later told him, "We wanted to meet an Eagle Scout that went to UC Berkeley."
But Rogers had more going for him than his apparent novelty status. He had worked each summer during college at the Lair of the Golden Bear, the California Alumni Association's camp, and he dreamed of building a company that would develop alumni camps across the country.
Rogers got the job at KOA and stayed for two years before heading to UCLA to complete a master's degree in business administration. After a couple of years as general manager of a South Lake Tahoe resort, he went to work for Harrah's Entertainment Inc. in 1978, eventually becoming senior vice president and general manager of Harrah's Reno in 1994. Then, in January 2000, he returned to KOA as president and chief executive officer.
Throughout his career, both the skills and the values he learned as a Scout have served Rogers well. The advancement program, he said, "helps you understand what it takes for achievement." And the values? "I can't tell you the number of times I think of trustworthy, loyal, helpful, and all the rest as being requirements for the people who work for us at KOA," he said. "The Scout Law is just a wonderful value list."
It is a value list that impacts Rogers' whole family, too. Both of his brothers are Eagle Scouts, as are his three sons and his four nephews -- a total of 10 Eagle Scouts across two generations of the family. In fact, his brother Gary is also a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award. (Gary Rogers is chairman and chief executive officer of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holdings.)
The aptness of having an Eagle Scout in charge of North America's largest camping company is not lost on Rogers. He's thrilled to see Scout troops using KOA campgrounds for family campouts and views the campgrounds as the perfect place to introduce new Scouts to camping skills before they head off for more rugged adventures.
Rogers has also found ways to use KOA facilities to support Scouting. Last fall, he helped the Montana Council create a program called Jamboree Day. Held at the Billings KOA, the event included a camping for area Boy Scouts, a fund-raising luncheon to benefit the council, and the "Eagle's Nest," a reunion get-together that reached out to adult Eagle Scouts in the community. John Nunn, an Eagle Scout who is a member of the U.S. Olympic Team, spoke at the luncheon and visited with the Scouts in camp.
The event had a terrific impact, according to Scout Executive Gordon Rubard. "The Scouting program is strong in Montana but not always well-known," he said. "This was a high-profile event with TV, newspaper, and radio coverage."
The Eagle Scout reunion helped the council identify potential volunteers and financial supporters as well as reconnect with alumni of the program. The council is planning additional events, including similar Jamboree Days, in other parts of the state. "The good news is that Jim's in for the long haul," he said.
Rubard had worked with both Jim and Gary Rogers when he served as Scout executive of the Marin Council in San Rafael, California, so Jim Rogers was one of the first people he called after he transferred to the Montana Council. Besides chairing the Jamboree Day program, Rogers serves on an ad hoc committee of Montana CEOs who work to support the council.
"He's relatively new to Scouting in Montana, but he's already had a significant impact and will continue to do so," Rubard said.