Marilyn Rogers Becker: Leaving her legacy
Marilyn Rogers Becker: Leaving her legacy
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Marilyn Rogers Becker loved being an entrepreneur and she loved Ohio State. From operating her first business in elementary school to teaching her dog Molly to bark and growl whenever the word *ichigan was uttered, Marilyn had gumption, humility and an engaging, mischievous spirit.
Marilyn Rogers (BSBA ’54) met Russ Becker at an off-campus bookstore at Ohio State during the early 1950s. They went on a few dates but went their separate ways. Russ joined the military, and Marilyn began her career working for the Girl Scouts of America and Case Western Reserve University.
More than 10 years after that first date, the two reconnected and eventually married. Marilyn became Mrs. Becker and the stepmother to Russ’ children from his first marriage — two young boys, Scott and Gil Becker.
It was the 1960s and the beginning of a culturally accepted norm that saw women working outside of the home. Marilyn, however, was ahead of her time — she was already a decade into her career and lived by a personal code built on integrity, honesty, and a commitment to self-reliance — traits her parents instilled in her from early childhood.
But once she married, she found herself drawn to a more traditional role and expectations of a wife and mother. The idea of staying home, raising the boys and keeping the household operating in peak condition appealed to her. It was a shift from the earlier focus on her career, but one she eagerly made.
“She loved being able to cook, iron clothes and do all the things that allowed her to ‘take care of her men,’ as she liked to say,” Scott says.
Eighteen years of marriage eventually ended in divorce, with Marilyn and Russ once again going their separate ways. But for Marilyn and Scott, they shared a bond that divorce simply couldn’t break.
“We had such a strong connection. After the divorce, we stayed in each other’s lives,” says Scott. “She might have been my ex-step mother, but I always called her mom.”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Born in 1932, Marilyn was an only child. She relished the closeness and support that afforded her with her parents.
As an elementary school student, and with encouragement from her father, Marilyn devised her first business venture — monetizing errant golf balls she would find from golfers who couldn’t keep their shots on the fairway of the local country club behind their house. She spent her time gathering up the golf balls and selling them back to the country club.
It was among her first lessons in running a business: recognizing an opportunity and creating a way to capitalize on it.
Marilyn graduated from high school in Akron, Ohio, and arrived on Ohio State’s campus ready to develop her business acumen. She joined the Greek organization, Delta Gamma and earned her BSBA in 1954 from the College of Commerce and Administration, and set off on a path that would begin and end as a career woman.
When her marriage to Russ ended, Marilyn hadn’t worked outside of the home for nearly two decades, but that didn’t prevent her entrepreneurial spirit from kicking in once again. Without support from a spouse, Marilyn turned to her early lessons on self-reliance and focused on how she could use two of her greatest skills: talking to people and building relationships. The attributes were, and still are, key components for a successful real estate professional.
Marilyn joined a small, local real estate office in Loveladies, New Jersey, selling properties primarily along the Jersey Shore. “She was a 50-year-old woman in a male-dominated industry, who didn’t have any experience as an agent,” says Scott.
Where other agents saw Marilyn as someone without experience, Marilyn saw an opportunity to use her skills and build a second career.
“She got lost taking her first client to her first house,” Scott recalls. "But she figured it out. She believed in herself and was determined to succeed.”
By any measure, Marilyn did succeed. She retired from her thriving real estate business on the east coast and moved to a multi-generational community in Landenberg, Pennsylvania, where she made fast friends with two women who worked in the community clubhouse, Catherine and Kim.
The proverbial social butterfly, Marilyn talked with anyone and everyone wherever she went. The bank, the grocery store, the post office or simply passing someone on the street — no one was safe from her gregarious personality and genuine affection for the simple act of meeting people.
It didn’t take long for Catherine and Kim to realize what a gem they had in Marilyn. They recruited her to work with them in the community’s clubhouse. Marilyn excelled when it came to engaging with residents and planning special events held at the clubhouse.
She especially loved talking to young people; she found they helped keep her young at heart.
“She was one of those adults who didn’t try too hard to be cool. So kids, especially teenagers, were drawn to her — they could sense her authenticity,” says Scott. “But what was special about her was that she wanted to impart wisdom and share life advice without turning those young people off.”
“She’d tell them ‘Go in early, stay late. Show them your work ethic, be the best “whatever” they’ve ever seen,’” says Scott.
Marilyn Rogers Becker passed away on March 17, 2020, at her home in Landenberg, surrounded by her loved ones.
In her estate plan, Marilyn bequeathed a legacy gift to Fisher, establishing a million-dollar endowment fund to support graduate study scholarships. She requested the fund be named after her parents, Everett L. and Helen L. Rogers.
“She wanted to honor her parents, to pay homage to the way they raised her and the values they instilled in her as she was growing up,” says Scott.
While her parents’ legacy was their impact on her life and how they raised her, Marilyn’s legacy will be carried by Fisher students — tomorrow’s business leaders, innovators and problem solvers.
The scholarship, Marilyn hoped, would serve as a reminder to others of the success that can be achieved when opportunity meets honesty, integrity and hard work.
“Those may seem like old-fashioned values, but they served her well. She was able to leave this legacy to Fisher because of how she applied those values to her career,” says Scott.
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She believed in herself and was determined to succeed."
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