Although he was born in Denver, Colorado, Roger H. Ogden, who grew up in Shreveport and Lafayette, considers himself to be an “honorary Cajun.”
Growing up, Ogden felt such a strong connection to the state that his earliest career aspiration — which led him to study at LSU — was to someday be the governor of Louisiana.
Ogden, an ambitious entrepreneur, civic leader, and philanthropist, may well have ended up in the Governor’s Mansion if not for the cautionary counsel of Senator Russell Long, whom Ogden developed a close friendship with during a college internship in D.C.
“He was a great mentor, and he spent hours with me talking about life in public service," Ogden said. "One time, he spread his arms wide like he was talking about a fish he caught and said, ‘You go into it with the biggest ideals and you want to accomplish this much,’ … then, he brought his hands down to an inch apart and said, ‘At the end of a successful career, you can do about this much.’”
Through Senator Long and through his student government experiences, Ogden began to understand that a career in business could allow him to have more influence than he could hope for as a politician; for one thing, entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about getting reelected.
“[Senator Long said] if you go out and you live a good, honest, hardworking life in business … and give your resources to others, you can accomplish more than you can as one person in one elective office,” he said.
And Ogden has certainly accomplished a lot. He has lived in New Orleans for over thirty years, where he owns Ogden Development and Investments and serves on the Board of Directors for Stirling Properties, which he co-founded.
As a commercial real estate developer, Ogden has been part of the development and acquisition of more than $450 million in properties, including the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel, the Shops at Canal Place, and the Loews New Orleans Hotel.
But Ogden did not stop his dedication to public service. He has worked with numerous non-profit organizations throughout his illustrious career. In 1993, he donated over 1,000 works of art to establish the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the largest collection of Southern art in the nation.
Despite his many activities in the community, Ogden’s undying passion for the Tigers remains evident. He was elected to the LSU Alumni Hall of Distinction in 1998 and he also served on the LSU Board of Supervisors for fourteen years, helping to launch the Flagship Agenda, which helped LSU achieve its current Tier 1 status.
He speaks of LSU with a fondness in his voice that is only surpassed when he starts talking about his son, Dr. Roger “Field” Ogden II, an orthopedic surgeon who recently joined the Honors College Advisory Council and in whose name Ogden donated $1 million to establish the Roger Hadfield Ogden Deanship in the Honors College.
“My son is a truly good person … Parenting can only affect that so much; it’s either there or it’s not,” he said. “And it is his innate goodness that influences me to continue to strive to be — if there were such a word — ‘gooder.’”
In many ways, the University is like Ogden’s second child. From serving as student body president in 1967 to hosting recruiting receptions in his own home for the Honors College last year, he has personally sought to contribute to LSU’s development and growth his entire adult life.
“As you hear so many alums say, young and old, LSU was the best four years of my life,” he said. “I believe that the more we improve LSU, the more it will rise the tide of the other universities in the nation, not detract from them, and it will rise the tide of our state.”
Ogden has done more than his share to support the state’s flagship university — especially its Honors College, which he views as “one of the foremost strategies” to stem “brain drain” in Louisiana education.
“I support it because of what I think it means,” he said. “With a robust, innovative Honors College program, we then can compete for those students in our state who have opportunities to go to Ivy League schools … We now have a program that can sort of give them the best of all worlds: students can take small, tutorial-style classes in the atmosphere of a big flagship university.”
Thanks in no small part to Ogden’s generosity, the LSU Honors College has grown exponentially over the last five years, but Ogden knows there is still work to be done.
“Every year, we have a number of major competitive national scholars … We are now attracting some of the best and the brightest students from Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and from nations around the world, and now we have the opportunity to entice those outstanding minds to stay in Louisiana,” he said. “But we can’t let our foot off the gas pedal — we need to keep pressing it down.”
It is fitting that today, his name — which is attached to a museum and multiple corporations — signifies more than his own identity. Through his ongoing service to LSU and to Louisiana, Ogden has established a lasting legacy that is marked just as much by his philanthropy as by his remarkable personal accomplishments.
“Real success is not measured by how much you’re worth, success is that which we can leave behind when we’re gone,” he said. “You can’t take titles or money with you — that has a shelf life … I want to leave this world with more than I took from it.”
And despite the magnitude of his fortune, Ogden has done an admirable job of keeping his success in perspective.
“I think we are all entrepreneurs, to one extent,” he said. “It’s never a graph of a straight line up. There are always setbacks, but it’s how you deal with it. Do you give up? Do you go home? Or do you never say die? Because we do end up being in the right place at the right time, and in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it’s what you do about it that matters.”
Story by Elizabeth Clausen, LSU Honors College
For more information, contact the Honors College at 225-578-8831