Roger Litz is no stranger to hardship. Born and raised in Chicago, he was placed in an orphanage along with his brother after his mother was abandoned by her husband and left without the financial resources to care for them. He stayed there for many years, until his mother remarried and was able to retrieve Roger and his brother.
The trauma of this abandonment, coupled with the systematic bullying Roger endured, instilled in Roger a fundamental belief that self-reliance was the only way he would overcome the challenges he faced. And he learned to rely on his brains, rather than his brawn, to succeed. To this day, he fondly remembers his time in a Catholic grammar school, where the nuns (whom he describes as “excellent teachers”), helped him apply himself to his studies. Throughout his education, Roger’s mantra was “through knowledge I will flourish.”
From the time he was young, Roger always worked odd jobs and saved money. One job was predictive of a future profession; he worked at a horse stable, where he quickly became a skilled equestrian, and was trusted by the stable owner to take new horses to Lincoln Park in Chicago to acclimate them to their urban environment. His savings enabled him to attend the University of Illinois, where he earned both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, and ultimately graduated as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).
Soon after earning his DVM, Roger was drafted into the Air Force and spent time in Greenland. When his military service concluded, Roger went to southern California and began working as a veterinarian.
Being a lifetime learner, he soon heard the siren call of school beckoning him again. This time, Roger wanted to learn more about art, which had been a refuge for him in his teenage years, when he often escaped the harshness of his life’s circumstances in the galleries of the Chicago Art Institute. There, surrounded by art, Roger felt safe; for him, the galleries served as a “church without the dogma.”
After two years of art school, Roger’s life took on a new rhythm. He worked part-time with veterinarian offices as staff augmentation, which gave him flexibility for frequent travel to Europe, where he immersed himself in European culture and continued his studies in both art and architecture.
When Roger met Elliot Leonard, he found someone with whom he could be both fiercely self-reliant and relied upon in return as a true partner in life and love. Their lives took Roger and Elliot back and forth from the West Coast to the East Coast over a span of decades. During their time together, Roger, a true Renaissance man and raconteur, wrote several plays that were staged. Later in New York, he opened a contemporary art gallery in SOHO, and after the gallery closed, Roger continued to work as a private art dealer.
Roger is a man of many passions; art, music, nature, animals and, of course, Elliot. He is also someone who achieved success on his own terms, with his own actions. It should be no surprise, then, that for Roger the most important mission of the Leonard-Litz Foundation is to help LBGTQ people find the tools to be self-sufficient.