Club Insider

Roger Ralph

A Club Industry Pioneer, Veteran and Gentleman

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  • Baacyard Clubhouse at Bel Air Athletic Club
  • Baacyard Clubhouse Life Tree at Bel Air Athletic Club
  • Hockessin Athletic Club
  • Flags for Veterans at Hockessin Athletic Club
  • L to R - Roger Ralph, Butch Varno and Middlebury Basketball Coach, Russ Reilly at Game in 2016

My Dad, Club Insider Publisher, Norm Cates, sometimes writes, "Get a beverage of your choice, sit back, relax and enjoy the following read." Today, you will want to do exactly that for this month's cover story. Our feature this month is someone you may or may not have heard of or met, but I can guarantee you that he has had an effect on your health and fitness club business. His name is Roger Ralph, and he epitomizes the terms Club Industry Pioneer, Veteran and Gentleman.

Growing up in Easton, Pennsylvania, Roger attended Middlebury College where he majored in History and American Literature. Upon graduation, having been in ROTC, he completed infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia and Military Intelligence Officer training at Fort Holabird, Baltimore. He was then deployed to Korea. He served there for a year until being awarded with an International Fellows Scholarship to attend Columbia University where he spent two years and earned a Master's in International Affairs. After some time in Washington D.C. at Job Corps (one of the main War on Poverty programs); then the Small Business Administration; followed by Booz, Allen and Hamilton, Roger joined the relatively new, at the time, Columbia Association (CA) as Director of Human Services.

At CA, Roger met and worked with one of his mentors, Jim Rouse, Founder of Columbia, a planned community with a blend of residential, office and retail establishments. Columbia's population today is over 100,000 people. Some of Rouse's well-known quotes include, 'Profit is always a byproduct of value,' and 'It's as hard to do a little thing well, so you might as well do a big thing well.' Over time, Rouse affected Roger's view on business, and those lessons would come into play years later. During his time at CA, Roger entered the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard and began auditing courses there, as well as speaking to students in the School of Design about the groundbreaking things CA was doing. Soon after, a perfect storm of circumstances created Roger's entrance into the health and fitness club industry, and that's what the rest of this cover story will be about.

Before moving into our in-depth interview with Roger, though, let me add these personal thoughts: Roger Ralph is as humble of a person as I've ever gotten the chance to meet and speak with. Raised by a good, hardworking family who instilled the values of fairness and equality, Roger has never faltered from those amiable qualities. Looking back on his successes, Roger fully credits staff and not himself for leading the businesses he was associated with to those heights. Now, in retirement, he still devotes time, the most important asset of all, to the future of society, our children.

So, in the words of my father, this month, I encourage you to get a beverage of your choice, sit back, relax and enjoy the following read, as we interview Roger Ralph, a true club pioneer, veteran and gentleman.

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