Friday, March 17, 2017

Meet Mary Beth Rogers - GCSA of Arkansas

I have said before on this blog that the best part of my job as a field staff representative in the South Central region is meeting and working with extraordinary people. I met Mary Beth Rogers at the very first event I attended in this role in January of 2011. She has been a joy to work with for the past six years and is always very helpful and inviting. She is the current chapter executive for the GCSA of Arkansas and the Arkansas Turfgrass Association. I know that all of the members of these associations think the world of her and appreciate all of the work she has done to make these organizations outstanding!

I also met her husband, JP Rogers, at my first event. He was serving as the President of the GCSA of Arkansas. JP and Mary Beth are a great couple and I enjoy "knowing" their whole family through Facebook. JP is the golf course superintendent at War Memorial Golf Course in Little Rock.

I have also been very impressed with the work that Mary Beth does in the field of Dyslexia Awareness. She was recently involved in an effort to pass Arkansas legislation SB 328 (science of Reading Bill) that involved advocating in schools for a child's right to learn to read. Way to go, Mary Beth! You will read more about her involvement in these issues below.

So as if she wasn't busy enough, I asked her to help us all get to know her better. She did a great job and I hope you will all enjoy learning more about this amazing lady. Thank you, Mary Beth for all that you do for your members and the golf industry in Arkansas!

How long have you been with the GCSA Arkansas?  I am in my teenage years with GCSA.  I'm almost 15 now!  

How did you get started with the chapter?  I was lucky enough to have dated a very handsome assistant and we went to a lot of chapter meetings. The first Christmas party I went to was in 1991! That was my first impression of what a great group of people were involved in the Arkansas chapter.  They couldn't get rid of me after that.  I later married that assistant but the important part of the story is how he was mentored as an assistant.  The course superintendent was the infamous Bud Busken and he taught JP everything he knew (and then some!).  Bud's wife Mary Jean had been running the Arkansas chapter as a volunteer.  I can't even imagine the hours and hours she contributed to the association free of charge.  When I heard that she wanted to retire I jumped on the chance to attempt to fill her shoes and lucky for me they let me try!  I think golf course superintendents are some of the smartest and hardest working people on the planet and I hope that that respect shines through in the work I do with them to promote the profession.   

You also manage the ATA – how did that come about?  The chance to manage ATA came a few years later. When the board of directors were looking for a new executive secretary they called me for an interview because there were a couple of golf course superintendents on the board who recommended me.  Did I mention that I'm hard to get rid of?  There is a lot of synergy between the two groups.  Managing turf in the transition zone has its own set of challenges and I think it's helpful when a secretary has an understanding of those challenges and constraints.  Having been exposed to the industry in both my home life and work life I came into ATA with a working knowledge of association management, turf issues and the nature of the turf management.  Managing a trade show requires me to act like a duck: cool and calm on the outside but paddling like crazy underneath.  It is so much fun to see all the parts of the show come together and work out.   There are exciting changes on the horizon for ATA and I'm thrilled to watch our years of strategic planning start to make a difference. 

What is it like to be married to a golf course superintendent?  Lonely and broke. Okay, I'm kind of kidding but a good turf wife knows that her marriage will have seasonal demands and mother nature will have her way no matter what.  Being married to a superintendent means everything is on you during the summer and don't even think about a summer vacation.  But it's a small trade-off for those days when the family can do things together when everyone else is cranking out another 9 to 5. There are worse things in the world than being married to a man who works hard.  

How was it when JP was president? It was actually wonderful to have my husband serve on the board and serve his term as president.  He couldn't ignore my calls or emails!  

Please tell us about your family.  I've been married to JP, the superintendent of my life, for 20 years. We have two teenage boys (prayers are appreciated and donations accepted!). We have a yellow lab experiment dog and cat with a bad attitude but they keep us entertained.

I know you that dyslexia awareness is an important issue for you – can you tell us about the issue and your involvement?  I firmly believe that when you have that little thought in your head that says "Someone should do something about this," that means you need be that someone.  We figured out that our oldest son was dyslexic when he was in 1st grade.  I say "we" figured it out because no one at his school could. 

Most people think dyslexia means you see words backwards or they float around.  It's really a neurological difference that hinders the ability to decode words and assign sounds to letters.  It also typically affects spelling and working memory.  It is not an IQ problem or work ethic problem. One in 5 people is dyslexic.  

It's truly only a disability because our schools are not equipped to teach using the science of reading.  Dyslexics can be taught to read with the right programs and all children can learn to read with these programs.  I saw what not being able to read did to my child and it broke my heart.  When I learned about the dropout, suicide and prison rates associated with dyslexics, my heart shattered. Every time I drove by a school I said a little prayer for all the brave kids sitting in class wondering what was wrong with them.  I didn't find my mission, it found me. 

I found a wonderful group of teachers and passionate parents and we formed an advocacy group. This group gives advice to parents seeking support, teachers asking advice about students and many of them travel thousands of miles across the state at their own expense each year to attend IEP meetings with parents. Currently, this group has several bills before our state legislature that will make real change in our schools.  

I'm really moved by how many people in the turf business approach me and tell me they are dyslexic. They feel like it's a dirty secret but the reality is that their brain is wired differently in a way that makes them more creative, inventive and intuitive.  It should be celebrated and recognized for the many gifts it brings.  I hope that tide will turn and will brag out being dyslexic instead of ashamed of it. Most people don't realize that Steve Jobs, Sir Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, JK Rowling, Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, most of the sharks on Shark Tank, many actors like Jennifer Anniston, Henry Winkler and Jay Leno, Albert Einstein and golfer Tom Lewis are all celebrated dyslexics.  

I know you are very proud of the recent Arkansas SB 328 legislation that just passed. Are you working on other projects? We have several other bills in the works right now. One will require schools to print students reading grade level on the report card so parents can see more than just a letter grade. The other will provide some enforcement measures to our original dyslexia bill. These are huge changes and will help us make great strides in literacy for our state! 

People may not realize how many dyslexics there are in the professional turf management field. I would bet it's higher than many other fields. Dyslexics like to work with their hands, are big picture thinkers, project oriented, very creative and tend to avoid careers that require a lot of reading and writing.

What are some good resources to learn more about dyslexia awareness? The International Dyslexia Association,, or for information specific to your location search for Decoding Dyslexia and your state's name. 

Are you a golfer? What are your hobbies?  I am not a golfer. I am terribly  
uncoordinated and I don't like to do anything that might be misconstrued as exercise. I also can't see that little white ball in the air but that's usually not a problem since it likes to stay firmly seated on the tee no matter how hard I swing. My favorite hobby is napping. I have mad napping skills.  

Best thing about being a chapter executive?  By far the best thing about being a chapter executive is the people I get to work with. I love that I don't do the same thing every day.  Event planning is fun and strategic planning is exciting.  We are a small chapter but don't tell us that because we don't act like that.  We want to offer our members to the same value they would get from a big chapter.  I love seeing an assistant grow and become a superintendent in charge of his own course.  Watching someone grow and succeed is exciting and validates that chapters have the power to truly affect lives promote careers. 

Your background – where you grew up, family, education, travels?  My roots are deep in Arkansas.  I grew up in a small town with wonderful parents and got to marry the man of my dreams.  I went to college at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and earned a degree in business management but I've always said that being a chapter executive uses more psychology skills than anything.  When we travel, I drag everyone down to the beach and they drag me camping. It's a charmed life I lead and I'm blessed to be a part of GCSAA.