A Legacy of Support
Kathleen Dickerson’s lasting gift to Rogers Historical Museum
Text and Photos Courtesy of Rogers Historical Foundation
Kathleen Dickerson, a 45-year supporter of the Rogers Historical Museum, including two major museum expansion projects, left a sizable donation in her estate to help prepare the museum for its next milestone improvement.
“We are honored to be a part of Kathleen’s incredible legacy,” said David Swearingen, Rogers Museum Foundation board chairman. “Thanks to Kathleen’s sustained generosity, the Rogers Museum Foundation endowment will continue to grow to support the goals and objectives of the foundation and the Rogers Historical Museum. We are extremely grateful for this level of visionary support.”
Dickerson, a retired Rogers schoolteacher, left an endowment gift of $345,000 to the Rogers Museum Foundation. Only the income from this gift will be available to spend for museum capital improvements, while preserving the total of the gift unaltered will generate more income throughout the future.
The Rogers Museum Foundation is the non-governmental support organization that raised $2.5 million for the 2018 expansion project that returned the Hailey Ford building, in the 300 block of South Second, back to its classic 1940s Art Deco façade to serve as the main exhibit building for the city’s museum.
Dickerson and her husband, Aaron, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, moved to Rogers in 1969 to spend his retirement with his foster family.
Just five years later, the Bicentennial Steering Committee of Rogers established the Rogers Historical Museum as the first local project for the bicentennial celebration. Both Aaron and Kathleen immediately became active in the formation of a museum for their adopted city.
Both were charter members of the Friends of the Museum and actively solicited donations for displays in the new museum. They worked to set up displays in the former bank building on First Street that would serve as the first home of the museum.
Before long, the owner of that building raised the rent to a point that the struggling museum could no longer afford the payments, according to Jerry Hiett, former 17-year member of the museum commission and current member of the foundation’s board of directors. Along with other volunteers, the Dickersons packed the displays for storage.
For several years, the bulk of the museum’s exhibits had to be stored out of sight. In an effort to keep the museum alive and growing, items from the collections were selected on a rotating basis and placed in showcases in banks and major businesses throughout the city of Rogers, Hiett added.
The museum later received a major donation of the circa 1890s Hawkins House at Second and Cherry. Along with several other volunteers, the Dickersons became carpenters, painters, grounds keepers, movers and display designers to get the museum ready to be opened in the house.
Only two years after the doors of the museum first opened to guests, Kathleen Dickerson was appointed by the mayor to serve as a member of the Rogers Historical Museum Commission, the governing body of the museum.
Although a member of the governing body, she never slowed down her work as a volunteer, doing any job that she felt needed to be done, from guiding visitors through the Hawkins House to running the vacuum cleaner when she noticed a spot the custodian had missed. Aaron passed away in 1988, but Kathleen continued her volunteer work in addition to duties as commissioner.
The Friends of the Museum presented Kathleen a Lifetime Service Award in 1997 for her outstanding efforts.
In 2018, she was further honored for her service when the educational department of the museum, located in the Key Wing adjacent to the Hawkins House, was named in her honor.
She was serving as chairman of the museum commission when the Key Wing addition to the Hawkins House was completed in 1988, at which time she helped Mayor John Sampier cut the ribbon on the first museum expansion. In 2018, again serving as chairman of the museum commission, Dickerson helped Mayor Greg Hines cut the ribbon to open the Hailey Building as the current home of the museum.
Dickerson was still serving on the museum commission at the time of her recent death.
“The Rogers Historical Museum will forever be indebted to Mrs. Dickerson for her tireless service, leadership and generosity,” Gail Shepherd, foundation vice chairman said.
For more information about the Rogers Historical Museum, visit www.rogershistoricalmuseum.org.