Proceeds from the sale of Judge James Rogers’ Christmas tree farm will help veterinary medicine students who wish to work with small animals. Photo: College of Veterinary Medicine
Turning land into a legacy
How one donor used his property to support students at the U of M

Judge James Rogers wasn’t planning on selling his 70-acre Christmas tree farm near Zimmerman, Minnesota, until he received an unsolicited offer last year. “I really wasn’t thinking of selling,” he says. “But I knew if I did, the capital gains taxes would be significant.”

Rogers and his father, Judge Harold Rogers, bought the land for $3,000 in 1957. “Each year I got my tax statement, I saw the value go up,” he says. “And I didn’t need the money from the sale.” 

The retired Hennepin County judge called his accountant and asked how to best handle the situation. One option: To give the land to a charitable organization, allowing him to deduct the full market value as a donation. 

A 1954 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School, Rogers has had a sweet spot for the U, giving to many areas over the years including the Law School, the College of Veterinary Medicine, the Landscape Arboretum, and the Athletic Department.

Rogers donated the land to the U of M in July 2021; it sold for $365,000 in September. Since then, he and his wife Leanna have enjoyed figuring out how to allocate the proceeds. Helping students was a priority. “What bothers me is the cost of college today and the debt kids have when they graduate,” he says. “When I graduated from law school, I wasn’t in debt. Not a lot of kids can say that today.”

He and Leanna are creating a scholarship for veterinary medicine students who plan to work with small animals. “We’re dog people,” he says, adding that Toby, their 12-year-old wire fox terrier “runs the house.” “So many people adopted pets during the pandemic. More vets are needed.”

They’re also giving to the William Lockhart Scholarship fund to help a law student. The Arboretum, which Leanna has been involved with since the 1970s, was also high on their list. Their gift will help refurbish the Snyder Building, the original visitor center. 

Other gifts will go to Eastcliff, which Rogers describes as “a hidden jewel of the University,” and the Masonic Cancer Center to support the joint work of veterinary and human oncologists.

“We wanted to do something while we can,” Rogers says of his reason for making this gift during his lifetime. “It’s a privilege to get to see the results.”

More stories

A remarkable gift from a savvy South Dakota businesswoman will forge a legacy for her and help generations of students at the University of Minnesota
How the 4-H pledge plays out in the lives of young people across Minnesota