Rodgers Palmer, Class of 1985

As a young student at The Lexington School, curiosity, questions, careful observation, and a good-natured wallow in minutia characterized Rodgers Palmer. He remembers first grade in Miss Bale's room. The programmed readers at first appeared to be insurmountable hurdles, but they soon enticed Rodgers to learn to read. By the time he tackled books 23 and 24 with their focus on the Greeks, he was hooked, and his love of Greek mythology began. Former teachers recall that Rodgers excelled in everything he attempted because he had an inquisitive mind, a tireless work ethic, and a passion for learning.

Grades 5-8 introduced math competitions. Math Bowl and MATHCOUNTS provided opportunities to use learning in productive, fun ways. Former coach and math teacher Betty Cox remembers Rodgers as “one of the brightest, most inquisitive students [she has] had the privilege of teaching.” Part of the class of ‘85, Rodgers worked side-by-side with classmates who pushed one another to achieve to their fullest. For Rodgers this has meant high school at Phillips Exeter, college at Princeton, and graduate school at Yale where he received his Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry.

Science and math captured Rodgers at an early age, and he always thought he would be a physician. As his journey unfolded, doctoring gave way to scientific research. The isolation of research led him to McKinsey and Company, a world-wide management consulting firm. At McKinsey for the past six years, Rodgers has worked “as a practice expert in the organization.” With his knowledge of how organizations work, he helps large companies figure out ways to make change. Rodgers helps banks, large pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, telecom companies, and chemical companies look at their businesses through fresh eyes. Rodgers has great satisfaction seeing “how our ideas can help shape the direction a company takes.”

One might wonder how degrees in molecular biology prepare someone for organizational consulting. Rodgers says, “McKinsey offers me an opportunity to think critically about problems, meet interesting people, and learn a lot of new things.

Rodgers has strong opinions about the value of his Lexington School years. He states, “I have always maintained that if you assume that each phase of your education costs roughly the same amount (it doesn't, but for the sake of argument, let's say that it does), and you could only choose either 1.) TLS, 2.) Exeter, 3.) Princeton, or 4.) Yale, then I would spend my money at TLS. It's not that the other places weren't valuable and didn't contribute enormously to my learning and where I am today, rather that I've always believed that TLS provided me with the foundation to continue to learn and expand my horizons. And while the content of what I learned at TLS is not really important, the manner in which I learned and the curiosity of the environment that I learned in was so valuable to any future endeavor (from high school, to graduate school, to work). I really think that ...TLS helped unlock the potential of every subsequent experience.”

Rodgers currently lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Selene Sumin Ko whom he met on a blind date. Rodgers claims, “While I would like to say it was love at first sight for both of us, it was more for me...then I had to convince her!” Selene, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, works for the United States Department of State. Both travel extensively with their work. Within one year, both she and Rodgers were on six of the seven continents.

Although he travels around the world with his work, Rodgers feels that "the balance between everything that you do is what's important.” He believes that balance is also the greatest challenge each of us faces. He credits Ron Heifetz, co-founder of the Center for Public Leadership and lecturer in public policy at Harvard College, for helping him formulate his philosophy. Heifetz asserts, “...[L]ife is a series of choices that everyone makes around two seemingly polar opposites. And the challenge is not picking one or the other; rather it is finding a way to achieve both at the same time.” So Rodgers works to find balance in “big picture aspirations and the day-to-day activities, making a difference to the people around [him] and making a difference more globally.”

We are thankful that all of our alumni create the historical memory that contributes to the core of The Lexington School today. “Within these halls of learning, a proud tradition grows” because alumni like Rodgers Palmer work to make the world a better place and still take time to remember their roots.