Everyone at Knox College knows Roger Taylor. He eats meals with us and is always around to chat and tell stories. Students know Roger Taylor here, but what does he do outside of school? Does he shine his shoes, organize his closet of blue overcoats, run a puppy farm in the country or sing karaoke with Japanese businessmen? Based on student hearsay, it seems everyone expects Taylor to be doing something wacky when he is not at Knox. The truth may not be so crazy, but it does involve a tractor, jogging and singing.
Denise Bailey has been Taylor’s assistant since 2002, when he walked over to the Knox College personnel office where Bailey was working and personally asked her if she would accept the job. She doesn’t believe Taylor has a “secret” life; he is an open book. He does love to talk about his tractor that he drives on his farm.
“I don’t think people realize how insane Roger’s schedule is,” said Bailey. Taylor has constant meetings, travels often, and is involved with several boards such as the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Agency, Associated Colleges of the Midwest, and Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, to name a few.
According to Taylor, his favorite thing to do is “monkey around at our farm and read.” He calls his tractor “a major toy” and gets visibly excited when talking about it.
“I don’t have any animals on the farm, but I do have a tractor with a front end loader,” he said.
What is he like when he is on his farm? “When I’m down at the farm I wear belt overalls,” says Taylor.
“Roger’s John Deere tractor is his baby,” said Dean of Students Xavier Romano, mentioning that it is a “sight to be seen, you’re not sure if it’s real.” The farm has been in Taylor’s family since 1857.
Another hobby of Taylor’s is the Fulton County Boys, a country band that Taylor sings for. Dean of the College Larry Breitborde plays the accordion and Vice President for Finance Tom Axtell plays the spoons. Anne Taylor, Taylor’s wife and Knox’s pro bono counsel, describes it as “hilarious.”
Anne thinks most people do not know that Roger jogs every morning, and has done so for almost 40 years. He gets up at 5:30 a.m. and runs from Ferry St. to Knox and back. When he doesn’t run, he does not feel right. According to Anne, Roger once completed a Chicago Marathon.
When asked what job he would have if he could work anywhere, Taylor had to think for a moment. “I would be the secretary of the Navy. It’s a fun job,” he said with a smile.“I would have a driver, I don’t have a driver at Knox.”
When asked if there is anything Knox does not know about him, Taylor laughed, saying, “Well. that’s a loaded question. That I’m bashful, does that count?” Taylor also thinks most people probably do not know he worked on the presidential campaign for Eugene McCarthy in 1968.
If Taylor could do anything he would go back to Mexico to see the monarch butterflies in winter. He went with his wife many years ago and thought it was beautiful.
Taylor says he and his wife live in three different worlds. He breaks it down into the Knox world where he spends most of his time, the Chicago lawyer world, and his farm world. All of these worlds are very different, he explains, and the people in each do not really understand the people in the other two worlds.
Romano’s first memory of Taylor exemplifies how different the worlds can be.
“Everyone was relaxing and talking before Roger’s first staff meeting. Then Roger comes in, looks around at everyone laughing, raises his arms and calls everyone out of order as if he were in a courtroom,” said Romano. “We were all very confused.”
Anne Taylor has been married to Roger for 45 years and knows him better than anyone. He was the first one in his family to attend college, which is part of why Knox College is so important to him. As Romano said, Taylor really believes in purple and gold; “his passion is Knox College.”
“You have to have a sense of humor to be married that long, and Roger definitely has a sense of humor,” said Anne Taylor. “We’ve laughed our way through life.”