Phyllis Lynn Powers Rogers | NWADG

It’s funny what turns young people in a certain direction. For Phyllis Rogers, one of those funny things was a board game.

Stocks & Bonds.

“I still have it somewhere,” she said. “I saved it because it was my Dad’s favorite.”

And so she did — have it somewhere, that is, in her home in Sherwood. Dated 1964 by the 3M Company of St. Paul, Minn., Stocks & Bonds is described as an “exciting new stock market game for investors of all ages and incomes.”

“It taught us about the stock market and taught us critical thinking,” Rogers says.

Good learning for accountants and chief financial officers, of which she is both.

She’s chief financial officer of Delta Dental, a nonprofit provider of dental and vision insurance whose Arkansas headquarters is in Sherwood and which serves about 500,000 individuals and families in the state. That number is sure to grow, given that Delta Dental has been selected by the state Department of Human Services as one of the companies to provide dental insurance for a pool of about 400,000 young Arkansans and 200,000 adults served by Medicaid.

Nationally, Delta Dental of Arkansas serves about 2.9 million customers, Rogers says.

The state deal is “a great growth opportunity. It’s incredibly exciting and an opportunity to serve our mission,” which, simply stated, is to improve the oral health of Arkansans.

Rogers’ personal mission extends beyond the workplace. She’s actively involved in other causes as a board member of CARTI and the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas. For all these achievements, she’ll be honored next month as the Distinguished Alumni of the Year by the college of business at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Phyllis is civic-minded overall, and she’s never in a bad mood,” Jane Wayland, dean of the college, says. “How does she do that? She’s a perfect role model for our students.”

A benefactor, too, given that UALR students have been interns at Delta Dental, with one of them rising from underwriting assistant to director of Medicaid operations.

“We really give our interns practical experience,” Rogers says. “If businesses in central Arkansas do this, we can grow the next generation of leaders.”

The business college looks for accomplishment when it honors its grads, Wayland says.

“Phyllis took her degree and accomplished something, but you need to remember who took you to the dance. The degree gives you a basis to move forward.”

Move forward is exactly what Rogers did while pursuing her accounting degree, which she earned in 1986 at UALR.

Rogers’ education began even before she graduated, as a bookkeeper for a small construction company. After graduation, she worked for a shoe company headquartered in southwest Little Rock that had manufacturing plants in Clarksville

“When I was a senior, across the hall from my calculus class was an accounting class. I thought, ‘Wow! A practical application of math.’ I absolutely loved it. When I went to college I knew what I wanted and stuck with it.”

and Paris. Being on the inside and knowing all the numbers, Rogers knew the company wasn’t long for this world. Within a year, she says, it was sold to another shoemaker.

Thirteen years with Stephens Diversified Leasing eventually led her to Delta Dental, where she became vice president of finance in 2000, then was promoted to senior vice president and CFO in April 2004.

For the clueless, what does a CFO do?

“Anything financially related in the organization,” Rogers says. “Here, that’s financial reporting, accounts receivable, billing, underwriting and how we price our product. This is a nonprofit, but if we always broke even we’d never be able to plan for the future.”

DAUGHTER OF A GENIUS

Planning for the future started early for Rogers. She grew up in Hot Springs, the daughter of Edward and Bonnie Powers. Dad was a retired Air Force electrical engineer who worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Mom was mostly stay at home but also worked as an insurance clerk at a hospital in Hot Springs.

Ed Powers taught Phyllis the virtue of a strong work ethic, she says, and Bonnie Powers instilled the value of an outgoing personality. Ed had an IQ of 141. “He barely crept into genius status,” she quips. Her father wanted her to get a good education to ensure her independence.

Rogers’ discovery of accounting was serendipitous.

“In high school, I loved math, geometry and algebra.” But trigonometry and calculus, not so much.

“When I was a senior, across the hall from my calculus class was an accounting class. I thought, ‘Wow! A practical application of math.’ I absolutely loved it. When I went to college I knew what I wanted and stuck with it.”

Rogers passed the CPA exam — “a brutal test” — in 1988, two years after graduating from UALR. When she speaks to accounting classes at UALR, where she’s a member of the College of Business Advisory Council, she counsels taking the exam. And passing.

“It’s one of the best things to launch your career. It’s very limiting if you haven’t,” she says.

Both her parents have since passed away. Ed Powers was a cancer patient whose treatment included radiation at CARTI.

“He had radiation every day,” Rogers recalls, “and CARTI provided transportation for him. CARTI treats the whole person, and that also gave him back some of his independence. In the meantime, he created friendships.”

FROM A PLACE OF PASSION

That service, those friendships, and Delta Dental’s ongoing support of CARTI led to Rogers being asked to serve the organization. She’s chairman of the CARTI Foundation board of directors and as such also serves on the CARTI operating board of directors.

To both of those jobs, Rogers brings great energy, says Kathi Jones, president of the CARTI Foundation.

“That’s the thing that always impresses me about Phyllis,” Jones says. “She has a high-powered job at Delta Dental, but she does so much work with the foundation and CARTI it seems like she’s here daily for a meeting or something.

“When she came to the foundation it was her passion that brought her to us. Her father was a patient. She translated that passion to a commitment to our organization. We go out and recruit board members to our cause, and those who come to us with something in their heart always seem to be the best for our organization.”

As chairman of the foundation board, which has 30 members, Rogers runs meetings, serves as an ad hoc member of every committee, is actively involved in the finance committee, helps recruit new board members and helps raise money.

Jones says Rogers was an active member of CARTI’s capital campaign committee. The campaign ended a year ago and raised about $11 million, exceeding the goal of $10 million. CARTI moved into a new center in 2015, on Carti Way near Interstate 630 and John Barrow Road.

“Phyllis was helping us identify prospective donors and solicit those donors and steward those gifts,” Jones says.

Jones describes Rogers as a friend.

“Many people consider her a friend,” Jones says, “and that’s a wonderful talent to get people to feel that way about you.”

A FRIEND INDEED

Rogers’ circle of friends includes Little Rock’s Rotary Club 99, the state’s largest. She was treasurer of the organization last year and is recruitment chairman this year.

“She’s our person in the field promoting Rotary,” says Karen Fetzer, the club’s executive director.

Fetzer describes Rogers as “always upbeat, a great fun spirit. I like her approach to problem-solving, which is very level-headed.”

Rogers also serves on the board of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas, where Janell Mason is executive director. Rogers is the board’s treasurer and chairman of the finance committee. She has a personal connection to Ronald McDonald houses, one of which took in a niece who lives on the East Coast.

“Phyllis was touched by that,” Mason says. “She saw the broad-based need, the patients and families who need to stay here.”

The Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock is near Arkansas Children’s Hospital, which it primarily serves as a place for patients and families to stay during treatment. Patients and families at other hospitals are also served.

“She’s been a great volunteer for us,” Mason says. “She’s reached out in many ways, from cooking lunch to volunteering several ways.

“Phyllis is certainly committed to our organization, one of those board members who will shoot an article to me or something of interest that makes me know she’s thinking of us off the clock.”

‘RADIATES PEACE AND JOY’

Mason calls Rogers a treasure.

“Phyllis seems to possess a great sense of work/life balance and, frankly, to me she radiates peace and joy.”

A balanced life for Rogers includes her husband, Johnny, whose business, Mid-Central Plumbing, is in North Little Rock; their two adult children, two grandchildren and two dogs. The couple have been married for 26 years. They enjoy boating and kayaking and have a fondness for Italy.

As a health-care executive, Rogers has a view about the state of the health-care economy. More people are insured, she says, but their deductibles trend higher. Patients can’t pay their bills, the debt is written off, and the system absorbs the costs. And those costs go ever up, fueled in part by new technologies. “Something has to change, but I don’t know what the answer is.”

A speech is expected when UALR honors Rogers. What will she say?

“My message will be to connect students to the business community and the business community to the students, to connect those dots. I want to encourage business leaders to provide those experiences” students need to grow.

As for the students, “articulate to the employer that you can do that job, that you understand the concept.”

SELF PORTRAIT

Phyllis Rogers

DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: May 28, 1963, Hot Springs

LAST GOOD BOOK I READ WAS Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.

I WON’T EAT liver.

FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: fudge brownie frozen custard with pecans

THE BEST ADVICE I EVER GOT WAS from my father: “Get a good education so you can take care of yourself.” He wanted to raise an independent daughter.

WORST ADVICE I EVER GOT: I can’t think of any.

GUESTS AT MY FANTASY DINNER PARTY: my parents, Edward and Bonnie Powers, Oprah Winfrey, Lucille Ball, Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, Grace Kelly, John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe and Bono.

FUN IS dinner with friends, an escape room, boating and kayaking around the lake, Razorback football and UALR basketball

BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT AC-COUNTANTS: We’re boring.

MY GRANDCHILDREN CALL ME for money.

ONE WORD TO SUM ME UP: passionate


“Many people consider her a friend, and that’s a wonderful talent to get people to feel that way about you.” — Kathi Jones, president of the CARTI Fou…

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