1986 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"I hope the work I accomplished had a positive effect on America."
Born and raised in 1909 in Boston, Massachusetts, Ralph Rogers had to go to work at 10 years of age because of his father's financial reverses. He operated a paper route and sold papers on street cars. He graduated from the Boston Latin School, where he excelled as a debater. Until his graduation, he worked after school and on weekends for his father, keeping the books, preparing bills, taking dictation, and packing and shipping orders.
Upon graduation, he became an office boy for City Central Corporation, earning $10 a week. Subsequently, he worked in the personal finance business and attended Northeastern University Law School at night. Rogers was instrumental in the introduction of the high-speed diesel engine and subsequently bought and operated companies that manufactured diesel engines, motorcycles, and power lawn mowers.
During World War II, Rogers contracted rheumatic fever and discovered during his 14 months of fighting the disease that it was responsible for killing more children than all other children's diseases combined. He headed a research project that discovered the specific infection. In turn, the advent of sulfur drugs and penicillin made it possible to prevent rheumatic fever. This became Rogers' first achievement in the field of medical science.
Subsequent to the end of World War II, he sold his privately owned companies and moved to Texas, where in 1950 he created Kenilworth Corporation, a private investment firm. Eventually, that company became Texas Industries, Inc., which today has assets in excess of $800 million and which last year earned in excess of $48 million.
Rogers retired in 1975, but kept active with pro bono activities. He is a cofounder of the Children's Television Network (creator of Sesame Street), and is often called the Father of PBS-Public Broadcasting Service.* Deceased