John B. Rogers, co-founder of Denver-based architecture firm RNL, died July 12 at the age of 88 of complications resulting from a long battle with lung disease.
Rogers served as president at RNL from 1955 to 1985, chairman of the board from 1985 to 1995 and as a board member from 1995 to 2009. In 2009 he became an emeritus member of the board, continuing as an adviser and mentor to the firm.
Under his leadership at RNL, the firm designed numerous commissions, including the Mountain Bell Denver Service Center, the Colorado History Museum and Justice Complex, the Police Administration Building, the Solar Energy Research Institute, and countless schools, churches, office and civic buildings, including the Wellington E. Webb Municipal office building.
At the age of 84, Rogers was actively creating new scholarships, participating in elementary school architectural education through the CAL Project for the Denver Architectural Foundation and working to change the way government solicits professional services.
“He was always taking on a new cause, and he continued to his last days to provide guidance and mentorship to the young architects at RNL through brown-bag seminars, and leadership training,” said Rich Von Luhrte, principal and board member, RNL.
Born and raised in Kansas in 1922 as one of six children, Rogers entered Kansas State University to study architectural engineering. His education was interrupted when he was called into service during World War II, where he served under Gen. Patton in the 89th Infantry Division from Luxembourg to Czechoslovakia, returning home a captain. He resumed his studies at KSU upon returning from the war.
It was during a postwar ski trip to Winter Park in 1947 that Rogers decided to move to Denver, where he found employment with Mark Musick and Temple Buell.
Though he left again to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas, he returned upon graduation in 1956 and founded his own firm, John B. Rogers Architect.
In 1961 Rogers joined forces with Jerry Nagel, and five years later through a merger, Rogers Nagel became Rogers Nagel Langhart Architects and Engineers. RNL has since grown to more than 250 people working among four offices in Denver, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Dubai.
While earning for his MBA at CU-Denver in 1984 at the age of 63, Rogers was asked to write a paper on retirement. He responded, “I can’t do it—I don’t ever plan to retire.” Rogers continued to contribute his leadership and creativity to the profession of architecture and the Denver community for another 25 years, growing his firm, giving his time to the American Institute of Architects and the Denver Architectural Foundation, serving on boards and working as an architect.
“John Rogers was a leader in everything he did. He recognized the importance of architecture as a business, where the design professional must know as much about his client’s business as he does his own,” said Von Luhrte. “His work has been the backbone of RNL’s growth and excellence.”
Rogers has won virtually every honor in the profession of architecture. He was a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects; was named Colorado Architect of the Year, and awarded the prestigious Silver Medal by the Western Mountain Region of the AIA. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from AIA in 2006.
He was the first KSU alumni fellow from the College of Architecture, and was the Architect in Residence in the Business School at CU-Denver. He received a Distinguished Service Award from CU, given for his service to the profession and to the community.
Rogers also published several books, including “L3, Life’s Lessons Learned,” and “My Story,” his autobiography. In the past few years, driven by the challenges of living full time on oxygen, he authored “02,” a primer on to how to travel with, manage and sustain life on oxygen therapy.
“All of these accomplishments notwithstanding, John’s greatest contribution was his unwavering dedication to excellence from the day he began practice to the day he passed on,” said Von Luhrte. “He was truly a man in control, with an unbelievable personal discipline that drove his passion for architecture to new levels of achievements.”
Rogers’ dedication to his profession was exceeded only by his love for his family. While at the University of Texas, he met and later married fellow student Bette Peek.
Bette Rogers died July 11, only a few hours before her husband. They are survived by their three sons: Scot, Rob and Richard. Rob has carried on the family architectural tradition as a principal at New York’s Rogers Marvel Architects.
A memorial service and reception is scheduled for Bette and John Rogers on July 21 at 10 a.m. at the Wellshire Presbyterian Church, 2999 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver. That day would have been John and Bette’s 59th wedding anniversary.
Kimberly MacArthur Graham contributed to this article.