Col. Michael J. Rogers ’86, US Army Ret.
2021 Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Mike Rogers has traveled extensively, going to four continents and 32 countries. But no matter where life takes him, Chapel Hill is never far from his heart. In fact, he said he applied to Carolina because he thought Chapel Hill was a nice city and UNC “would be a nice place to go.”
Rogers earned a psychology degree from Carolina in 1986. He later earned a master’s degree in contract management from Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, as well as a master’s degree in national resources strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
At Carolina, he was a member of the Black Student Movement. During his junior year, he served as governor of Hinton James and became a member of the Xi Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma.
Rogers is a recipient of the 2021 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award. He was nominated by Gloria Dent, as well as Keith S. Smith, who met him during their sophomore year at Carolina.
“He was definitely an out and about guy, a super networker even back then,” says Smith, a senior associate attorney with Mecklenburg County. “I thought he was a really nice guy, very personable, a go-getter and very oriented. Once he set his mind to something, he was all in. He’s still that same guy, always interested in helping others connect. He puts others before himself and has a heart to serve.”
Following Rogers’ freshman year, he had a brief stint with the U.S. Marines when he attended Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. After graduating from Carolina, he was commissioned at Duke and taught at The Wright School in Durham before reporting for duty with the Army.
During his service, he went to Afghanistan, Germany, Japan, Korea, Somalia and Thailand, among other countries. He retired as an Army colonel after 32 years in the military.
While serving his country, Rogers mentored hundreds of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and government civilians. He also earned numerous awards, including the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit, with Oak Leaf Cluster, and Defense Superior Service Medal.
After retiring, Rogers worked as chief of staff for a small, independent agency that creates opportunities for people who are blind and/or severely disabled. He quit in 2018 to run for office and is now a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing the 32nd district in Anne Arundel County. He serves on the Economics Matters committee as well as the Banking, Consumer Protection & Commercial Law and Unemployment Insurance subcommittees.
“Going into politics wasn’t really planned,” Rogers says. “I’d coached my son’s football team, was involved with the PTSA and had served on the homeowner’s association board. Some people were kind of watching what I was involved in and said I needed to run for office. There were seven candidates in the Democratic primary. I jumped in the race in January and the primary was in June. I had to finish in the top three, and I pulled it off.”
Smith wasn’t surprised when Rogers entered politics.
“I remember his willingness to provide service to others when we were in school,” Smith recalls. “He’s a phenomenal guy who’s always willing to help others. My daughter just recently started a career in television and broadcasting, and he’s been real diligent about trying to link her with others in the field.”
Rogers credits many with helping him win a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates and is proud of being elected to serve. He’s even more proud of his children, Michelle and Jared, and counts being a father as his greatest achievement.
Winning an award named after Harvey E. Beech is very special, he says.
“It’s an honor, especially in recognition of one of the first four Black students to graduate from Carolina’s School of Law,” Rogers says. “Being awarded the Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award is humbling and a huge honor.”