December 11, 1930 – November 14, 2019
Bert Rodgers was born on December 11, 1930 and passed away on November 14, 2019. The family would love for you to take a moment to add a fond memory or story about Bert. These will be treasures they will cherish always!
Bert Rodgers, a pioneer in Florida real estate education, died peacefully, surrounded by his loved ones, on November 14, 2019.
His passion for teaching led to the founding of Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate in 1958. By the mid ‘60s the school was the largest in the state, third largest in the country by the mid ‘70s, and eventually offered classes in over 40 Florida locations. It is estimated that well over one million students have been enrolled. Credited by a former Florida governor with having “...a remarkable influence upon the rapid development of Florida’s real estate industry,” Bert derived immense satisfaction from offering generations of Floridians the opportunity for a career with unlimited earning potential.
Bert was born December 11, 1930, in Lakeland, Florida to Grace and G.C. Rodgers who owned a tire shop; in later years, the family operated the 6,500 acre Big Six Ranch in Loughman. Growing up, Bert worked alongside his father in their business (even pumping gas at age 7). As a teenager, Bert cherished his Lakeland H.S. classmates and experiences and was active in numerous organizations. A true outdoorsman, he spent summers working at a Colorado dude ranch.
After graduation, he worked the night shift as a Lakeland police officer to pay for tuition at Florida Southern College—often falling asleep in morning class while still in uniform. He married Peggy Jean Dennis in 1954 (divorced 1973) and graduated with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Science. With his completion of ROTC, Bert enlisted in the Army as 2nd Lt. and served as an M.P. at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio. Upon discharge, he returned to Lakeland, acquired his real estate license, and opened a brokerage specializing in Central Florida citrus groves and cattle ranches.
Because Bert had easily passed the licensing exam and his friends had not, he agreed to tutor them—they passed—and Bert discovered his talent for teaching. He often said “the best way to learn is to teach.” A visionary, he realized there was no formal training to prepare real estate candidates for the state exam. The first class was held in his living room. Bert wrote the course materials, taught classes, personally selected and trained instructors and quickly earned a reputation for maintaining the highest quality educational standards.
In his spare time, Bert taught courses for The National Association of Realtors and the Florida Realtors. He was honored with recognition and awards such as the Realtor of the Year by countless regional and state associations. Often introduced as Mr. Real Estate, The Dean of Real Estate Education, or THE Bert Rodgers, he would grin—modestly. He never lost touch with his roots—he was genuine and unpretentious, kind-hearted and contemplative.
Bert developed a keen interest in politics and was intricately involved in supporting the real estate industry—frequently lobbying in Tallahassee to strengthen protections for both licensees and consumers. In 1992, the school was moved to Sarasota and his daughter, Lori, joined the family business. In 2002, they successfully promoted a law change to allow online licensing courses.
Despite his notable achievements and movie-star good looks, Bert was a humble man and a gentleman—always eager to mentor students, colleagues, friends and family. He was bright and witty and lived life with a passion. He treasured time spent with his family and friends, enjoyed all genres of music, especially country, the Gators, airboats, grits and fried fish (that he caught), fine dining, well-tailored suits, an occasional dose of “shoulder medicine” (Jack Daniels), and strawberry ice cream. He never used a computer and rarely spoke on a cell phone. His bookshelves were filled with non-fiction books on Florida, history, nature and fishing. His dictionary was inscribed “to Bert from Bert.”
An avid fisherman, Bert spent time exploring the grass flats off Longboat Key, reeling in trout, red fish and the occasional, highly prized snook—and he took pride in teaching others how to fish. He and his son, Clay, spent many hours together along the mangroves off Captiva Island. A family celebration of Bert’s life will take place on Captiva where Bert wanted his ashes to float away on the outgoing tide at Red Fish Pass.
Bert is survived by his wife of 17 years, Jeanette, and her two daughters, Shelly Newsome (Greg) of Lake Mary and Paula Priester (Jim) of Hastings. He is also survived by his two children from his first marriage to Peggy Jean Dennis: William “Clay” Rodgers and Lori Rodgers. Bert was blessed with three grandchildren, Clay’s daughter, Amanda Scott (Evan) and two adorable great grand-children, Addison and Elizabeth as well as grand-children Lucas Rodgers and Jason Giffard, sons of Lori Rodgers. In 2001, Bert established the Hazel Haley Scholarship Fund to honor his beloved H.S. English teacher who had a profound, lifelong influence on him. (Hazel often called him “the inimitable Bert.”) Hazel’s 69-year teaching career was thought to be the longest in the country. Memorial donations may be sent to the following address: Hazel Haley Scholarship, Development Office, Florida Southern College, 111 Lake Hollingsworth Drive, Lakeland, FL 33801
No service will be held—Bert avoided funerals—too heartbreaking, he’d say. “In the end, all of us are just angels flying close to the ground.” Willie Nelson, The Tao of Willie
Memories may be shared at BaldwinFairchildOaklawn.com 407.322.4263 or Legacy.com
November 18, 2019
There was never enough time spent with this most gracious, caring and giving man. He was so generous to all of our family from the very beginning when he first became part of our family. I’m not certain most realize just how much he gave to everyone. There are many wonderful memories, but I’ll share the most recent, when I visited in April. Although his strength was minimal, he refused to succumb to his weakness and shared several meals with us at the table, and smiled so much while allowing me to spoil him with many desserts...against Jean’s raised eyebrow of disapproval. We were both “breaking the rules”, and enjoying every minute of it! Thank you Bert, for all the stories, all the love, all the great memories. You will forever remain in my heart and on my mind. I hope you knew what a positive impact you made in my life. Much love.