Cal alumnus and ice cream titan T. Gary Rogers dies at 74

On May 2, renowned business leader and UC Berkeley alumnus T. Gary Rogers passed away while playing tennis at his Oakland home. Rogers was 74.

Rogers was an active member of the campus community and a resident of Oakland for 45 years. He graduated from UC Berkeley in 1963 with a degree in mechanical engineering and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1968.

A rower during his time as an undergraduate, Rogers was named a Cal All-University Athlete in his final year at UC Berkeley. After graduating from the campus, he frequently donated to Cal Athletics, and his contributions allowed for the building of the Cal crew boathouse, which was named in his honor.

Rogers also contributed to the Doe and Bancroft libraries, the Cal Alumni Association, the Haas School of Business, the UC Botanical Garden and public research and engagement centers on campus. Over the course of his life, he received the Bear of the Year, the Wheeler Oak Meritorious Award and a Trustee’s Citation for his frequent and generous contributions to the campus.

“Gary was the ultimate Cal Bear,” said Jim Rogers, Gary Rogers’ brother. “Cal is such a wonderful launching pad. There’s so much opportunity, and Gary demonstrated that in so many ways, in his success and his impact on the community.”

Apart from his philanthropy, Rogers is well known for his transformation of Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, which he bought in 1977 with his partner and longtime friend Rick Cronk, also a UC Berkeley alumnus. Over the course of 30 years, Cronk and Rogers turned the company from a small local store on College Avenue to one of the largest ice cream companies in the world, selling it to Nestle in 2002.

“(Rogers and I) met on the staff of the Lair of the Bear,” Cronk said. “We became very very good friends — he was a very happy, very positive guy.”

During his career as a businessman, Rogers also served as the chairman of Levi Strauss & Co., and the lead independent director of Safeway Inc. In 2009, Rogers served a term as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Jim Rogers described his brother as “an adventurous spirit.” He said Rogers was able to overcome cancer and a brain tumor but continued to pursue adventure.

“He made every day count,” Rogers said. “He got joy out of every thing he was doing every day, rather than just waiting for a destination.”

Rogers is survived by his wife Kathleen Rogers, his mother Virginia Rogers, his brothers Don Rogers and Jim Rogers, and his four children: Andy Rogers, Matt Rogers, Brian Rogers and John Rogers.

The Rogers family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the T. Gary Rogers Endowment Fund for the UC Berkeley men’s crew team and the Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland.

An outdoor memorial service will be held at the T. Gary Rogers Rowing Center on May 15 at 11 a.m. The center is located at 2999 Glascock St.

Contact Shayann Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shayannih.