B.D. Rodgers remembered for generous spirit

By: Tony Brown, Staff Writer//February 18, 2014//

B.D. Rodgers remembered for generous spirit

By: Tony Brown, Staff Writer//February 18, 2014//

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CHARLOTTE – An unassuming giant in Charlotte’s construction industry died last week, but Bonar Day Rodgers’ enduring impact will continue to be measured by the towering work that helps define the city.


And, clients, business associates and competitors say, by the personal touch, ethics and generosity with which he infused the company that survives him, Rodgers Builders Inc.

Eighty-nine when he died on Feb. 14, “B.D.” Rodgers – as he was known by everybody who is anybody in local commercial construction and nonprofit philanthropy circles – had retired 27 years ago as president of the company he founded in 1963.

But those who worked with Rodgers say that as chairman of the company board, he remained quietly but actively part of the family business long after his wife, Pat, took over the presidency in 1987.

B.D. Rodgers started the business when, at 39, he borrowed money against a $5,000 life insurance policy, the company’s website says; today it is the third largest general contractor in the Charlotte market with nearly $232 million in revenues in 2012, and now has operations in Greenville, S.C., and Raleigh.

Rodgers learned the construction business the hard way, as a combat engineer in World War II, helping to build roads in Germany’s Black Forest during the Battle of the Bulge. He made it official in 1949, graduating from N.C. State University with a degree in civil engineering.

Although Rodgers Builders has built plenty of bank and other office buildings, it is especially known for its institutional work, including the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the under-construction BB&T Ballpark, the Carolinas Medical Center’s Levine Cancer Institute, and so many college and university buildings that administrators have a hard time remembering their number.

Many of those institutions are nonprofits, whose leaders also have a hard time remembering the number of dollars Rodgers committed to their causes, the number of boards he joined and the number of efforts he spearheaded.

In the days after his death, and after his funeral Feb. 19 at First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, the encomiums about his personal commitment and high business ethics have poured forth.

Here is but a sampling:

Kathy Drumm is executive vice president of Central Piedmont Community College, where Rodgers has done multiple projects:

About five years ago, when we were finishing our Culinary Arts Building, we were doing the final inspection. He came through personally, and he noticed something about the flooring, something very minor. He said something to one of the supervisors, who said it had passed the county inspection. Mr. Rodgers said, “It may have passed their inspection, but it isn’t passing mine.”

When we did our Harper Campus in the Arrowood area, the Rodgers team engineered it for us so we could have 11 more classrooms. He was always working to help the college, and by extension the taxpayers, get more for our money.

He wanted to exemplify quality in everything he did. And it was not just him. It permeates his company. One of his greatest achievements you can have is that your ethic is reflected throughout your entire organization.

Bill Nichols, vice president for campus planning and services at Queens University, worked with Rodgers for eight years at Queens and for more than three decades as an architect at Lee-Nichols Architecture:

Rodgers did a lot of work here; I’m not even sure I could count the projects. Most recently they did the Levine Center, 145,000 square feet, $28 million, the single largest building on campus. It is really a signature piece of architecture, and it was a collaborative design-build project. And it was a fantastic process with fantastic results.

He was one of the premier contractors in Charlotte, and it was because of B.D.’s integrity; he was all about doing the right thing. He delivered the highest quality product, and his business relationships with architects and engineers showed he was the ultimate businessman with high integrity.

When we were finishing work on the Sports Complex and Conference Center on Tyvola Road, he was in his 80s, and still the ultimate delegator. They have a wonderful organizational structure. But he called me up and said, “Bill I just want to come by and talk to you about the project.” He would just show up on projects to check on supervisors, take you to lunch. You just don’t get that kind of personal touch everywhere.

As an architect, I did a lot of university work and banking work with Rodgers. Any construction project is not without its problems, and there are various ways to address those. One can be confrontation. The other can be consensus building, and that’s the way he always was. I never heard him raise his voice. We just rolled up our sleeves and got it done in a gentlemanly manner.

David and Bob Dooley are the sons of Tom Dooley, a longtime NFL referee and founder of R.T. Dooley Construction of Charlotte, which was sold in 2009 to Balfour Beatty Construction US, part of a London-based conglomerate. David is executive vice president of Balfour Beatty US, the largest local general contractor, and Bob is senior vice president.

Our family has had a close business relationships with B.D. for over 45 years, dating back to my father.

Over the last 15 years, our companies have partnered on more than $500 million in joint-venture projects together, serving the area’s largest clients such as the U.S. National Whitewater Center, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Time Warner Cable, and Johnson & Wales University.

What our teams learned from B.D. was his servant leadership and how Christian principles can be embedded inside a robust business. B.D. was a quiet and steady leader who was well respected. He was a proud Christian solider who made people and our community better.

B.D. was endeared by the working men and women in the field. He gave incredible invocations and blessings at jobsite topping-out and celebration events, all geared toward thanking the boots on the ground for their passion and drive to delivering safe and high quality projects for his customers.

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