A woman who once was a cheerleader at Surry Community College and has transferred that same spirit to the game of life is Mount Airy’s latest Citizen of the Year.
Deidre Rogers received the honor Thursday night during the 52nd annual meeting of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce at Cross Creek Country Club.
An audience of about 225 people watched as a surprised Rogers ventured to the podium to accept the award from Teresa Lewis, who had introduced the recipient as someone with a “can-do” attitude who’s impacted many segments of the community.
“Never afraid to tackle big projects, the winner is generous, with a heart of gold and constantly works to promote Surry County through civic and professional endeavors,” described Lewis, whose company, WorkForce Carolina, sponsors the annual Citizen of the Year Award.
“I’m usually not at a loss for words,” Rogers remarked upon accepting the award. But on this occasion, “I don’t know what to say — this is a huge honor.”
Rogers was selected from among 10 nominees for the award. An outside committee reviewed the nominations and made the final selection after an exhaustive evaluation of each person’s public service.
One individual who suggested Rogers as a recipient, Surry Community College President Dr. David R. Shockley, outlined the numerous roles she has filled in the educational, civic and business realms.
“Her experience as a cheerleader at Surry Community College has served her well,” Shockley stated on a nomination form regarding one of Rogers’ former roles — which he believes has continued.
“She became a cheerleader for life — for community, friends and family.”
Later Thursday night, while holding one of her grandchildren, Rogers said she has been blessed to be surrounded by many outstanding individuals, and had nominated someone else as Citizen of the Year she considered more worthy.
But since the award went to her, “I’m just very, very humbled — honored.”
Rogers was born and raised in Mount Airy and graduated from North Surry High School. She later earned a degree from Surry Community College, where she was cheerleader and later was chosen as an outstanding alumnus. Rogers has maintained her strong ties with the college in a leadership capacity that presently includes chairing the SCC Board of Trustees.
Another educational role involves Rogers’ support of academic excellence, athletic teams and booster clubs at both Meadowview Middle School and North Surry High, resulting in her selection as “Volunteer of the Year” at both.
Additionally, Rogers is a member of the governing board for the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation.
Her concern for youth further led to Rogers’ participation with Young Life of Surry County and the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts.
Non-profit organizations in Surry have benefited from Deidre Rogers’ dedication as well, which has included serving as board member and officer for the United Fund of Surry County, the local chapter of the American Heart Association and the Surry Arts Council.
Not only has Rogers given of herself in such capacities, she has inspired others to do the same, Shockley pointed out in nominating her for Citizen of the Year. “Her energy is contagious, enabling her to enlist volunteers and co-workers to reach any goal,” he noted.
“She has served as an inspiration through her volunteer efforts for such projects as Special Olympics and as a laborer for the Habitat for Humanity Rebuild in New Orleans.”
Before presenting the award to Rogers Thursday night, Lewis referred to the fact the recipient is never afraid to tackle big projects. Overall, Rogers has made the world a better place through her desire to put other people first and help those in need, Lewis added.
Rogers has been an active member of the chamber for many years, which has included serving as a board member, ambassadors chairman, golf tournament chairman and as member of the chamber’s Education, State Government, Membership and Land-Use Planning committees.
The newest Citizen of the Year is a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Mount Airy, where she has served on numerous committees over the years. She is now a member of its Fellowship Committee, works in the church nursery and serves on the Cradle Roll Committee.
Rogers also has made a mark professionally in the real estate world. She is associated with Rogers Realty & Auction & Co. Inc. in Mount Airy and has pursued credentials through various real estate and auctioneer schools.
Her business affiliations include membership in the National Auctioneer Association Auxiliary, N.C. Association of Realtors, N.C. Real Estate Commission Safety Council and Interstate Brokerage Advisory Committee and the Surry County Board of Realtors.
“Deidre Rogers has the ability to see how things can be, and armed with her enthusiasm, generosity and positive attitude, has been invaluable to the numbers of local, state and national organizations for which she has served,” Shockley’s nomination form states.
“She is not afraid to tackle big projects and constantly works to promote her home county and most specifically the greater Mount Airy area through her civic memberships and her professional role in real estate.”
The award winner is the wife of Mark Rogers, with whom she works in the real estate business. They have two children and two grandchildren.
Betty Ann Collins, chamber president, said many outstanding nominees were considered, leading to the choice of Rogers. “The job of selecting a winner of this prestigious award is a difficult one each year due to the quality of nominees that are submitted.”
In winning the Citizen of the Year honor Thursday night, Rogers continued a family tradition. Her father and sister, Zack Blackmon Sr. and Tanya Jones, jointly received the award in 1986.
Speaker: Never Give Up
Another highlight of Thursday night’s chamber meeting was the keynote address by Mickey T. Dunn, president and CEO of ML Industries Inc. (MLI), a Texas-based company.
Dunn, a resident of Jasper, Ga., who has an engineering background, detailed the ups downs he has experienced in the business world, beginning with his launching of an apparel-manufacturing company in 1990.
“I made every mistake a businessman could possibly make,” said Dunn, who endured mergers, takeovers and such ravages as NAFTA and the outsourcing of jobs overseas which took their toll on U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing.
Dunn experienced a mixture of good years and times when he struggled financially. “I started feeling bad about myself” when the pressures increased, he admitted. “That was one of the problems I had, I came down hard on myself.”
Finally, he was faced with the choice of reinventing his apparel company or going the way of other domestic firms. “And I said, ‘I’m not going to China,’” he told the audience.
Dunn’s determination led to his operation making a whole new product, grass catchers for lawn mowers, which evolved into manufacturing airbags for the expanding automotive safety industry.
Today MLI has more than 3,000 employees at several plants and supplies about 16 million airbags a year to major automakers. Dunn added that 48 million vehicles are on the road with his company’s airbags, but seemed prouder that they had saved an estimated 239 lives last year alone.
But he downplayed his own role in this success, instead crediting good employees, numerous “breaks” over the years and the grace of God.
Above all, Dunn said he learned that “you’ve got to continue to fight — that’s what this country’s all about.”
With Thursday night’s chamber audience composed mostly of business people, he urged them to never give up in the face of the inevitable pitfalls and challenges ahead.
“This economy’s not fixed yet,” Dunn said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.