In his early years, Roger lived on a farm near King City, Missouri before moving to Maryville, where he attended high school and began college at Northwest Missouri State University, majoring in history and planning on law school. When he transferred to the University of Missouri, Columbia, he became hooked on the study of marketing, receiving B.S. and M.S. degrees and teaching his first marketing course as a graduate student. Offered fellowships for doctoral studies at Wharton, Harvard and Northwestern, he chose Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, where he received his Ph.D. and taught marketing courses on the Chicago campus of Northwestern. His doctoral program focused on five areas: Economics, Marketing, Psychology, Business History and Quantitative Methods. It was a multi-disciplinary program; the foundation for research on the new, emerging field called Consumer Behavior, later called Behavioral Economics.
His career as an entrepreneur began in his early years. At age eight, his mother said, “Would you like a job?” His response was, “That sounds like fun,” and, with the help of his mother, Roger began selling greeting cards to neighbors, friends and relatives. By the age of 12, that business grew to an annual income as much as the fathers of some of his school friends. At age 16, with a loan from the Nodaway Valley Bank, where he became friends with the President while depositing savings every week from the greeting card business, Roger bought a house, using rental income to make the payments. Selling the house years later for several times its purchase price and the mortgage paid off, Roger used that money to finance his Ph.D. with enough left over for the down payment on his first home in Columbus, Ohio, after taking a position as Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University.
Roger worked full-time while also attending school full-time, starting as a junior in high school. He moved from selling greeting cards to selling clothes in a men’s clothing store and groceries in the local IGA store. He also became a volunteer disc jockey for his high school’s weekly program on the local radio station. Roger became intrigued with broadcasting and approached the station manager with an offer to sweep the floors and empty trash each day in exchange for learning the radio business. The station manager thought about it and replied, “Good idea, but you don’t have to work for free. I’ll pay you fifty cents an hour.”
The plan worked, and Roger progressed from janitor to disc jockey, to advertising salesperson, and after earning his FCC First Class Radiotelephone license , eventually becoming Chief (and only) Engineer at KNIM in Maryville. From KNIM, he was hired by KFEQ and KFEQ-TV in nearby St. Joseph as an on-air personality and TV weatherman. All while attending high school and college full-time. When he transferred to the University of Missouri in Columbia, he began another phase of his media career—in the circulation department of the Missourian. Learning the practical side of advertising—both broadcast and print—lured him to switch from a history major and law school to marketing and business school.
When he arrived at The Ohio State University, fresh from the doctoral program at Northwestern, Roger began a forty-year career of teaching, research, and speaking to business groups. Mostly he taught Marketing Research to undergraduate students and Quantitative Methods to MBA students, but he also taught Marketing Management and Business Policy. With Professors James Engel and David Kollat, Roger began team teaching a Ph.D. seminar called “Consumer Behavior.” It was one of the earliest of a hand-full of universities teaching the course, and resulted in Engel, Kollat and Blackwell writing their first textbook, Consumer Behavior. Consumer Behavior is in its tenth edition, translated into multiple languages and used by business organizations and universities throughout the world. He also wrote or co-authored more than twenty-five other books and research reports while an OSU professor.
At Ohio State, Roger taught over 65,000 students, teaching marketing courses in strategy, retailing, advertising, research, international marketing, and e-commerce. Drawing on his study of cross-cultural methodology and concern for civil rights and disadvantaged groups, Roger also pioneered business courses in Black Studies. Based on his doctoral dissertation, Roger developed a course on Thanatology—the study of death. His knowledge and experience in the marketing of professional services evolved into research and teaching health care marketing with a joint appointment as Professor in the College of Medicine at Ohio State, as well as Professor in the Fisher College of Business.
At age 29, Roger was elected to the Board of Directors of the Alexander Hamilton Life Insurance Company in Detroit. Over the years, he served on fourteen public boards and numerous private ones, some becoming public corporations such as CheckFree (now Fiserv). He became Director and largest shareholder of Max & Erma’s Restaurants, participating in its growth from seven stores to over 100. Roger considers the “hobby” of growing small firms into large ones as much fun as some people find golf or football.
The most traumatic time of Roger’s life began in 1999 when Worthington Foods, on whose board he served, was discussing a possible merger with Kellogg and other firms. During the time the merger was considered, the stock price of Worthington dropped to half its value and 6,000 people bought shares, including hundreds of friends, family and associates of Worthington directors and employees. Two included an employee of Roger’s consulting firm and her husband, who bought additional shares in their IRA accounts. Roger and they were convicted of insider trading. Roger was also convicted of making a false statement to a federal agency, because he stated he was innocent. Roger made nothing on the purchases, but received a six-year prison sentence and a fine of one million dollars. Throughout this process and continuing today, Roger maintains his innocence, believing his policy of not commenting about firms on boards he served was the legally, morally and ethically correct response to people who asked about the company.
Roger considers the experience and time in prison to be redemptive. He was a person of faith for many prior years, but his faith matured from one of defending God, to depending on God. His time was spent teaching GED courses to fellow inmates, giving them hope for a better future with a better education. He found teaching GED courses a rewarding experience because of the help and hope he gave others, and because it improved his ability to be succinct and relevant when teaching and speaking to audiences of any background.
Today, Roger is busy teaching, writing, speaking and serving on private boards of directors. He donates time speaking to churches and community service organizations and lecturing on college campuses. He is also involved in prison re-entry programs and organizations dedicated to helping disadvantaged persons and families.
Most of Roger’s time is devoted to being Principal of Blackwell Business Advisors, where he works primarily with small and mid-sized firms, helping with strategies and marketing to improve profitability and growth. He serves on the advisory boards of some of these firms and as a “sounding board” for many others, and serves as marketing consultant to the Columbus law firm of Cooper & Elliott and its automotive practice, Auto Law Ohio.
He is on the speaking circuit again, specializing in both high-energy keynote presentations for trade and professional associations and customer meetings as well as intensive half-day seminars for senior executives of industrial, consumer, and agricultural firms and non-profit organizations on topics ranging from the future of the economy to values-based customer service.
Roger spends much of his time and energy writing. His most recent book is about Garage Entrepreneurs—people that create jobs for the economy while building fortunes for their families and investors. The American economy is dependent more on entrepreneurs to create jobs than it is on the Federal Reserve, in Roger’s opinion. He wants entrepreneurs to know how to grow their firms from small, start-ups to giants like Amazon, Apple and Limited Brands, knowledge he dispenses in seminars and in his forthcoming book, Saving America: How Garage Entrepreneurs Create Jobs While Building Fortunes for Families and Investors.
Roger resides in Columbus, Ohio and loves spending time with his family and three amazing grandchildren.