Roger Bougie ’62 can trace his career success back to one day in the summer of 1959. He and his wife, Barbara, walked into the office of Boston College Law School Dean Robert Drinan, SJ. Bougie, a former Air Force pilot and intelligence officer, wanted to make a career switch and hoped that Fr. Drinan would admit him to BC Law. Bougie also had an impressive resume, but he hadn’t taken the required entrance exam or submitted an application.
Explaining that Bougie didn’t have the necessary qualifications, Fr. Drinan was about to turn him away when Barbara spoke up. “Roger came from nothing and worked his way through college,” she said. “You have to let him in.” Not afraid to fight for a cause she believed in, she made her case.
She said Bougie, a first-generation college student, had moved among several small towns in New Hampshire as a child, following his dad as he took on new jobs as a lumberjack. They didn’t have much money, and his parents each had an eighth grade education, but Bougie’s mother had always emphasized the value of education. He did well in high school and was admitted to the University of New Hampshire, where he participated in ROTC. He joined the Air Force straight out of college, quickly rising through the ranks and learning to fly a T-33.
Bougie served in the US and Taiwan, where the Chinese were threatening to attack. When discharged, he was offered jobs with the CIA and US Department of the Treasury. He turned them down because he wanted a break before starting the next chapter in his career.
The Bougies decided to settle down closer to home, in New England, and spent the summer working at the Cliff Hotel in Scituate, she as a waitress, he as a bartender. Bougie met several BC Law alumni there, and they hit it off. He was impressed by their successful careers. It was those conversations that eventually led the Bougies to Fr. Drinan’s office that day.
Fr. Drinan decided to take a chance on Bougie, agreeing to admit him if he did well on his entrance exam, submitted letters of recommendation, and excelled in his classes. He accomplished all three.
Bougie had the brains to complete his coursework, but it was Barbara, Fr. Drinan, and the people who took a chance on a pilot-turned-lawyer that made his success possible. The BC Law community’s belief in him is something that Bougie never forgot as he progressed through his career.
He spent his first year and a half as a lawyer in Waltham specializing in real estate and also spent time working with the Federal Aviation Administration. Wanting to apply his experience as a pilot to his legal career, he then took a job in United Aircraft Corporation’s international subsidiary. During his thirty-two years in the international legal department, Bougie assisted with contracts, sales, and marketing, tasks which took him to Brazil, Argentina, China, and throughout Europe and the Middle East, places that he had only dreamed of as a child.
Inspired to support the community that supported and believed in him, Bougie endowed the Roger M. Bougie Boston College Law School Scholarship, and in May met his current scholarship student.
“When we met, Roger and I talked about why BC was the right fit for both of us,” said Madeline Becker ’18, his scholarship recipient. “It was great to speak to someone who knows so much about the school’s history and who has shared the rewards of his success with others.”