Sep 06, 2005
Following a recent ceremony, the facility that welcomes new and prospective students to Humboldt State University now honors Franklin B. Rohner.
A descendant of a pioneering Humboldt County family, he is a former Humboldt State student who became an accomplished attorney, a successful television executive, a generous benefactor to the university and now the namesake for the Franklin B. Rohner Admissions Center. The center is on the first floor of HSU’s Student and Business Services Building.
Though Rohner was unable to attend the Aug. 24 dedication, HSU President Rollin Richmond and two of Rohner’s old friends and former classmates, Muriel Dinsmore and James Littlefield, lauded his generosity, calling it a reflection of his deep love for the area where his family’s roots are extensive.
Rohner is the grandson of pioneer Henry Rohner, a Swiss immigrant who came to the United States in 1847 at age 18 and two years later joined the Gold Rush to California, walking most of the way across the country to reach Sacramento in September 1849.
With advice from fellow Swiss immigrant and legendary gold discoverer John Sutter, Henry Rohner sought gold with moderate success along the Feather, Trinity and Salmon rivers. From a fellow prospector at Big Bar along the Trinity River, he heard of good farmland to the west in the Eel River valley. In 1851 he acquired land there, and then founded and developed Rohnerville and Fortuna. Now a residential area, Rohnerville was once a sprawling metropolis with hotels, blacksmith shops, stores, saloons, a brewery, race track, college and a newspaper.
The youngest of Henry Rohner’s seven children, Dr. Franklin Ellery Rohner, was born in 1878 and became the first student from Fortuna High School to graduate from the University of California, receiving a degree in dentistry. Following the death of his wife, the dentist returned to Fortuna with his only son, Franklin Boyden Rohner.
Later the elder Franklin Rohner held prominent positions in many civic and professional organizations and was one of the founders of the Ingomar Club in Eureka. He and his sister, Elizabeth Barcus, also supported many charitable causes, including the donation of additions to Rohner Park.
Franklin B. Rohner — the dentist’s son for whom the admissions center is now named — grew up in Fortuna. After high school he joined the U.S. Navy and served with the occupational forces in Nagasaki, Japan. He later attended Humboldt State College for one year. After finishing his freshman year at the top of his class, he transferred to Stanford University, where he earned a law degree before serving in the Judge Advocate Corps of the U.S. Air Force.
Rohner eventually pursued successful business and law careers, including spending several years serving as vice president at the CBS television network. Later he formed and became the senior partner of the law firm Rohner and Walderstein. For 30 years he represented clients in the entertainment industry, including the creators and producers of “Dynasty,” “Falcon Crest” and “Knots Landing.”
Rohner was also president of Steven Bochco Productions and owned and produced several award-winning television series, including “Hill Street Blues,” “LA Law,” “NYPD Blue” and “Doogie Howser, MD.”
Along with his gifts to HSU, his recent philanthropy has supported the renovation of the Fortuna Depot Museum (which contains a history of the Rohner family), the U.S. Navel Academy and efforts to find a cure for multiple sclerosis. He has four living children.