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Fred Rogers

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Fred Rogers
Fred Rogers, late 1960s.jpg
Rogers on the set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in the late 1960s
Fred McFeely Rogers

(1928-03-20)March 20, 1928
DiedFebruary 27, 2003(2003-02-27) (aged 74)
Other namesMister Rogers
Alma materRollins College
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
OccupationChildren's television presenter, actor, puppeteer, singer, composer, television producer, author, educator, Presbyterian minister
Years active1951–2001
Joanne Byrd (m. 1952)
Official nameFred McFeely Rogers (1928–2003)
DesignatedJune 25, 2016

Fred McFeely Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003) was an American television personality, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister. He was known as the creator, composer, producer, head writer, showrunner and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968–2001). The show featured Rogers's kind, neighborly persona,[1] which nurtured his connection to the audience.[2] Rogers would end each program by telling his viewers, "You've made this day a special day, by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are."[3]

Trained and ordained as a minister, Rogers was displeased with the way television addressed children. He began to write and perform local Pittsburgh-area shows for youth. In 1968, Eastern Educational Television Network began nationwide distribution of Rogers's new show on WQED. Over the course of three decades, Rogers became a television icon of children's entertainment and education.[4]

Rogers advocated various public causes. In the Betamax case, the U.S. Supreme Court cited Rogers's prior testimony before a lower court in favor of fair-use television show recording (now called time shifting). Rogers also testified before a U.S. Senate committee to advocate for government funding of children's television.[5]

Rogers received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 40 honorary degrees,[6] and a Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and was recognized in two congressional resolutions. He was ranked number 35 of the TV Guide's Fifty Greatest TV Stars of All Time.[7] Several buildings and artworks in Pennsylvania are dedicated to his memory, and the Smithsonian Institution displays one of his trademark sweaters as a "Treasure of American History". On June 25, 2016, the Fred Rogers Historical Marker was placed near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in his memory.[8]

Early life

Main Street, Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Rogers's birthplace.
Photo of Fred Rogers as a senior in high school.

Rogers was born on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Pittsburgh, at 705 Main Street,[9] to James and Nancy Rogers. James was "a very successful businessman"[10] who was president of the McFeely Brick Company, one of Latrobe's largest businesses. Nancy's father, Fred Brooks McFeely, after whom Rogers was named, was an entrepreneur.[11] Nancy knitted sweaters for American soldiers from western Pennsylvania who were fighting in Europe and regularly volunteered at the Latrobe Hospital. Initially dreaming of becoming a doctor, she settled for a life of hospital volunteer work. Rogers grew up in a three-story brick mansion at 737 Weldon Street in Latrobe.[12][9] He had a sister, Elaine, who was adopted by the Rogerses when he was 11 years old.[12] Rogers spent much of his childhood alone, playing with puppets and spending time with his grandfather. He learned how to play the piano when he was five years old.[6]

Rogers had a difficult childhood; he had a shy, introverted personality and was overweight. He was frequently homebound after suffering bouts of asthma.[10] He was bullied and taunted as a child for his weight, and was called "Fat Freddy."[13] According to Morgan Neville, director of the 2018 documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Rogers had a "lonely childhood... I think he made friends with himself as much as he could. He had a ventriloquist dummy, he had [stuffed] animals, and he would create his own worlds in his childhood bedroom."[13]

Rogers attended Latrobe High School, where he overcame his shyness.[14] "It was tough for me at the beginning," Rogers told NPR's Terry Gross in 1984. "And then I made a couple friends who found out that the core of me was OK. And one of them was...the head of the football team."[15] Rogers served as president of the student council, was a member of the National Honor Society and was editor-in-chief of the school yearbook.[14] He attended Dartmouth College for one year before transferring to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida; he graduated magna cum laude [11] in 1951 with a degree in music composition.[6]

Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in 1963.[16]

Television career

External audio
Terry Gross and Fred Rogers, Fresh Air with Terry Gross[17]

Early work

Rogers wanted to enter seminary after college, but instead chose to go into television, after encountering one at his parents' home in Latrobe in 1951. In an interview with CNN, Rogers said, "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen".[18][note 1] After graduating in 1951, he worked at NBC in New York City, as floor director of Your Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour, and Gabby Hayes' children's show, and as an assistant producer of The Voice of Firestone.[21][22][23]

WQED headquarters in Pittsburgh

In 1953, Rogers returned to Pittsburgh to work as a program developer at public television station WQED. Josie Carey worked with Rogers to develop the children's show The Children's Corner, which Carey hosted. He worked off-camera with Carey to develop the puppets, characters, and music for show. Rogers used many of the puppet characters developed during this time, such as Daniel the Striped Tiger (named for WQED's station manager, Dorothy Daniel, who gave Rogers a tiger puppet before the show's premiere),[24] King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday (named for Rogers' wife),[25] X the Owl, Henrietta, and Lady Elaine, in his later work.[26][27] Children's television entertainer Ernie Coombs was an assistant puppeteer.[28] The Children's Hour won a Sylvania Award for best locally produced children's show in 1955 and was broadcast nationally on NBC.[29][30][31] While working on The Children's Hour, Rogers attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963. He also attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development,[32][31] when he began working with child psychologist Margaret McFarland, who according to Rogers biographer Maxwell King, became his "key advisor and collaborator" and his "child-education guru".[33] Much of Rogers' "thinking about and appreciation for children was shaped and informed" by McFarland.[32] She was his consultant for most of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood's scripts and songs for 30 years.[33]

In 1963, CBC in Toronto contracted Rogers to develop and host the 15-minute black-and-white children's program Misterogers; it lasted from 1963-1967.[28][34] It was the first time Rogers appeared on camera. Head of CBC's children programming Fred Rainsberry insisted on it, telling Rogers, "Fred, I've seen you talk with kids. Let's put you yourself on the air."[35] Coombs joined Rogers in Toronto as an assistant puppeteer.[28] Rogers also worked with Coombs on the children's show Butternut Square from 1964–1967. Rogers acquired the rights to Misterogers in 1967 and returned to Pittsburgh with his wife, his two young sons, and the sets he developed at the CBC back with him, despite his potentially promising career with the CBC and no job prospects in Pittsburgh.[36][37] (Coombs remained in Toronto, creating the long-running children's program Mr. Dressup, which ran from 1967 to 1996.)[38] Rogers' work for CBC "helped shape and develop the concept and style of his later program for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the U.S."[39]

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Rogers screens the tape replay with Betty Aberlin and Johnny Costa in 1969.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (also called the Neighborhood), a half-hour educational children's program starring Rogers, began airing nationally in 1968 and ran for 895 episodes.[40] The program was filmed at WQED in Pittsburgh and was picked up and aired nationally by National Educational Television (NET), which later became the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).[41][42] The program's first season was composed of 180 black-and-white episodes. Each subsequent season, filmed in color and funded by PBS, the Sears-Roebuck Foundation, and other charities, consisted of 65 episodes.[43][44] By the time the program ended production in December 2000, its average rating was about .7 percent of television households, or 680,000 homes, and aired on 384 PBS stations. At its peak, in 1985-1986, its ratings were at 2.1 percent, or 1.8 million homes.[45][46] Production of the Neighborhood ended in December 2000, and the last original episode aired in 2001, although PBS continued to air reruns; by 2016, it was the third-longest running program in PBS history.[44][47]

Neighborhood Trolley from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood set at WQED studios in Pittsburgh.
A sweater worn by Rogers, on display in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History
Rogers and François Clemmons reprising their famous foot bath in 1993. The scene was a message of inclusion during an era of racial segregation.

Many of the sets and props in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, like the trolley, the sneakers, and the castle, were created for Rogers' show in Toronto by CBC designers and producers. The program also "incorporated most of the highly imaginative elements that later became famous"[48] on the program, such as the program's slow pace and its host's quiet manner.[49][48] The format of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood "remained virtually unchanged" for the entire run of the program.[50] Every episode began with a camera's eye view of a model of a neighborhood, then sweeping in closer to a representation of a house as an instrumental piano version of the theme song, "Won't You be My Neighbor?", which was written by music director Johnny Costa and inspired by a Beethoven sonata, is played.[51] The camera zooms to a model representing Mr. Rogers' house, then cuts to the house's interior, panning across the room to the front door, which is opened by the host as he sings the theme song to welcome his visitors while changing his suit jacket to a zippered cardigan (knit by his mother),[52] and his dress shoes to sneakers, "complete with a shoe tossed from one hand to another".[53]

The episode's theme is introduced, and Mr. Rogers leaves his home to visit another location, the camera panning back to the neighborhood model and zooming to the new location as he enters it. When the visit to the new location ends, Mr. Rogers leaves and returns to his home. Indicating that it is time to visit the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers heads over to the window seat by the trolley track and sets up the action there as the Trolley comes out. The camera follows it down a tunnel in the back wall of the house as it enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. The stories and lessons told there take place over a series of a week's worth of episodes and involve the puppet and human characters. The end of the visit occurs when the Trolley returns into the same tunnel from which it emerged, reappearing in Mr. Rogers' home, who interacts with the viewers before wrapping up the episode. He often will feed his fish, clean up any props he has used, and return to the front room, where he sings the closing song while changing back into his dress shoes and jacket. He exits the front door as he ends the song, and the camera zooms out of his home and pans across the neighborhood model as the episode ends.[note 2]

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood emphasized young children's social and emotional needs, and unlike another PBS show, Sesame Street, which premiered in 1969, did not focus on cognitive learning.[54] Writer Kathy Merlock Jackson stated, "While both shows target the same preschool audience and prepare children for kindergarten, Sesame Street concentrates on school-readiness skills while Mister Rogers Neighborhood focuses on the child's developing psyche and feelings and sense of moral and ethical reasoning".[55] The Neighborhood also did not spend as much resources on research as Sesame Street, but Rogers used early childhood education concepts taught by his mentor Margaret McFarland, Benjamin Spock, Erik Erikson, and T. Berry Brazelton in his lessons on his program.[56] As the Washington Post noted, Rogers taught young children about civility, tolerance, sharing, and self-worth "in a reassuring tone and leisurely cadence".[57] He tackled difficult topics such as the death of a family pet, sibling rivalry, the addition of a newborn into their families, moving and enrolling in a new school, or divorce.[57] For example, he wrote a special segment of the program that dealt with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy that aired on June 7, 1968, days after it occurred.[58]

According to Rogers' biographer Maxwell King, the process of putting each episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood together was "painstaking".[59] Also according to King, Rogers' contribution to the program was "astounding".[60] Rogers wrote and edited all of the almost 900 episodes produced, played the piano and sang for most of the songs performed on the program, wrote 200 songs and 13 operas, created all the characters, both puppet and human, played most of the major puppet roles, performed as host for every episode, and produced and approved every detail of the program.[60] The puppets created for the Neighborhood of Make-Believe "included an extraordinary variety of personalities".[61] The puppets were simple, but they were "complex, complicated, and utterly honest beings".[62] In 1971, Rogers formed Family Communications, Inc. (FCI, now The Fred Rogers Company), to produce The Neighborhood and other programs and non-broadcast materials.[63][64]

In 1975, Rogers stopped producing Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood to focus on adult programming. The Neighborhood continued to air on PBS, but as reruns of 455 episodes.[65] King reported that the decision caught many of his coworkers and supporters "off guard".[66] Rogers continued to confer with McFarland about child development and early childhood education, however.[67] In 1979, after an almost five-year hiatus, Rogers returned to producing The Neighborhood; King called the new version "stronger and more sophisticated than ever".[68] King stated that by the program's second run in the 1980s, it was "such a cultural touchstone that it had inspired numerous parodies",[19] most notably Eddie Murphy's parody on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.[19]

Rogers retired from producing the Neighborhood in 2001, at the age of 73, although reruns continued to air on PBS. He and FCI had been making about two or three weeks of new programs per year for many years, "filling the rest of his time slots from a library of about 300 shows made since 1979."[46] The final original episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired on August 31, 2001.[69]

Other television work

In 1978, while on hiatus from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers wrote, produced, and hosted a 30-minute interview program for adults on PBS called Old Friends...New Friends.[70][71] It lasted 20 episodes. Rogers' guests included Hoagy Carmichael, Helen Hayes, Milton Berle, poet Robert Frost’s daughter Lesley, and Willie Stargell.[70][72]

Rogers appeared as the first guest invited on the long-running Soviet children's TV show, Good Night, Little Ones, on December 7, 1988, which coincided with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev summit with American president Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. The Soviet program's host, Tatiana Vedeneeva, also appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, in a series of episodes about Rogers' visit to the Soviet Union.[73]

In 1994, Rogers wrote, produced, and hosted a special for PBS called Fred Rogers' Heroes, which featured interviews and portraits of four people from across the country who were having a positive impact on children and education.[74][75]

The only time Rogers appeared on television as someone other than himself was in 1996 when he played a preacher on one episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.[6]

Personal life

Rogers met Sara Joanne Byrd (called "Joanne") from Jacksonville, Florida, while he attended Rollins College. They were married in 1952 and remained married until his death in 2003. They had two sons, James and John.[76][77] According to biographer Maxwell King, close associates said that Rogers was "absolutely faithful to his marriage vows."[78]

Rogers became a vegetarian in the 1970s, saying he couldn't eat anything that had a mother. He became a co-owner of Vegetarian Times in the 1980s and said in one issue "I love tofu burgers and beets".[79][80]

Death and memorials

The Fred Rogers Memorial Statue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Created by Robert Berks, and opened to the public on November 5, 2009.

After Rogers' retirement in 2001, he remained busy working with FCI, studying religion and spirituality, making public appearances, traveling, and working on a children's media center named after him at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe with Archabbot Douglas Nowicki, chancellor of the college.[81] By the summer of 2002, Rogers' chronic stomach pain had become severe enough for him to see a doctor about it, and in October 2002, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.[82] He put off treatment until after he served as Grand Marshall of the 2003 Rose Parade, with Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby in January.[83] On January 6, Rogers underwent stomach surgery. He died less than three months later, on February 27, 2003.[84][85] He died one month before he was to turn 75 years old, at his home in Pittsburgh, with his wife of 50 years, Joanne, at his side. He received, while comatose shortly before his death, the last rites of the Catholic Church from Archabbot Nowicki.[86][85] He was survived by his wife, two sons, and three grandsons.[6]

The following day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette covered Rogers' death on their front page and dedicated an entire section to coverage about his death and impact.[85] The newspaper also reported that by noon, the internet "was already full of appreciative pieces" by parents, viewers, producers, and writers.[87] Rogers' death was widely covered. Most U.S. metropolitan newspapers ran his obituary on their front page, and some newspapers dedicated entire sections to coverage of his death. WQED aired programs about Rogers the evening he died; the Post-Gazette reported that the ratings for their coverage were three times higher than their normal ratings. That same evening, Nightline on ABC broadcast a rerun of a recent interview with Rogers; the program got the highest ratings of the day, beating the February average ratings of Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[88] On March 4, the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Representative Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania, unanimously passed a resolution honoring Rogers.[89]

On March 1, 2003, a private funeral was held for Rogers in Unity Chapel, which was restored by Rogers' father, at Unity Cemetery in Latrobe. About 80 relatives, co-workers, and close friends attended the service, which "was planned in great secrecy so that those closest to him could grieve in private".[90] Reverend John McCall, pastor of the Rogers family's church, Sixth Presbyterian Church in Latrobe, gave the homily, and Reverend William Barker, a retired Presbyterian minister who was a "close friend of Mr. Rogers' and the voice of Mr. Platypus on his show",[90] read Rogers' favorite Bible passages. Rogers was interred in a mausoleum owned by his mother's family.[90]

On May 3, 2003, a public memorial was held at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. According to the Post-Gazette, 2,700 people attended the event. Violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo-Yo Ma (via video), and organist Alan Morrison performed in honor of Rogers. Barker officiated the service; also in attendance were Pittsburgh philanthropist Elsie Hillman, former Good Morning America host David Hartman, The Very Hungry Caterpillar author Eric Carle and Arthur creator Arthur. Businesswoman and philanthropist Teresa Heinz, PBS President Pat Mitchell, and Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Project, gave remarks.[91] Jeff Erlanger, who at the age of 10, appeared on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1981 to explain his electric wheelchair, also spoke.[92] The memorial was broadcast several times on local Pittsburgh television stations and websites throughout the day.[93]


When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
—Fred Rogers
Whenever a great tragedy strikes—war, famine, mass shootings, or even an outbreak of populist rage—millions of people turn to Fred’s messages about life. Then the web is filled with his words and images. With fascinating frequency, his written messages and video clips surge across the internet, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who, confronted with a tough issue or ominous development, open themselves to Rogers’s messages of quiet contemplation, of simplicity, of active listening and the practice of human kindness.[94]
—Rogers biographer Maxwell King

Marc Brown, creator of another PBS children's show, Arthur, considered Rogers both a friend and "a terrific role model for how to use television and the media to be helpful to kids and families".[95] Josh Selig, creator of Wonder Pets, credits Rogers with influencing his use of structure and predictability, and his use of music, opera, and originality.[96]

Angela Santomero, co-creator of the children's television show Blue's Clues was inspired by Rogers to earn a degree in developmental psychology and go into educational television.[97] She and the other producers of Blue's Clues used many of the same techniques Rogers used, including using child developmental and educational research, and having the host speak directly to the camera and transition to a make-believe world.[98] In 2006, three years after Rogers' death, and after the end of production of Blue's Clues, the Fred Rogers Company contacted her to create a show that would promote Rogers' legacy.[97] In 2012, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, with characters from and based upon Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered on PBS.[99]

Rogers' style and approach to children's television and early childhood education also "begged to be parodied".[100] For example, comedian Eddie Murphy parodied Mister Rogers Neighborhood on Saturday Night Live during the 1980s.[101][19] Rogers told interviewer David Letterman in 1982 that parodies like Murphy's were done "with kindness in their hearts".[102]

Robert Thompson of Syracuse University noted that Rogers "took American childhood—and I think Americans in general—through some very turbulent and trying times,"[101] from the Vietnam War and the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, to the 9/11 terrorists acts in 2001. In the years since the end of production of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 2001 and his death in 2003, Rogers has, as Asia Simone Burns of National Public Radio put it, "been a source of comfort, sometimes in the wake of tragedy".[101] Also according to Burns, Rogers' words of comfort "began circulating on social media",[101] following tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, the Manchester Arena bombing in Manchester, England in 2017, and the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

Awards and honors

Rogers being presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in the East Room of the White House on July 9, 2002

On New Year's Day 2004, Michael Keaton, who had been a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood before becoming an actor, hosted the PBS TV special Fred Rogers: America's Favorite Neighbor. It was released on DVD on September 28 that year. In 2008, to mark what would have been his 80th birthday, Rogers' production company sponsored several events to memorialize him, including "Won't You Wear a Sweater Day", during which fans and neighbors were asked to wear their favorite sweaters in celebration.[103] The event takes place annually on his birth date, March 20.[104]

Rogers received the Ralph Lowell Award in 1975.[105] In 1987, he was initiated as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men of music.[106] The television industry honored Rogers with a George Foster Peabody Award "in recognition of 25 years of beautiful days in the neighborhood" in 1992;[107] previously, he had shared a Peabody award for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood in 1968. Rogers was a National Patron of Delta Omicron, an international professional music fraternity.[108] He was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.[109] One of Rogers' iconic sweaters was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, which displays it as a "Treasure of American History".[110] In 2002, Rogers received the PNC Commonwealth Award in Mass Communications.[111]

In 1991, the Pittsburgh Penguins named Rogers as their celebrity captain, as part of a celebration of the National Hockey League's 75th anniversary,[112] based on his connections to Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. Card No. 297 from the 1992 NHL Pro Set Platinum collection commemorated the event, making Fred one of only twelve celebrity captains to be chosen for a sports card.[113]

George W. Bush awarded Rogers the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 for his contributions to children's education, saying that "Fred Rogers has proven that television can soothe the soul and nurture the spirit and teach the very young". A year later, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Resolution 16 to commemorate the life of Fred Rogers.[2] It read, in part, "Through his spirituality and placid nature, Mr. Rogers was able to reach out to our nation's children and encourage each of them to understand the important role they play in their communities and as part of their families. More importantly, he did not shy away from dealing with difficult issues of death and divorce but rather encouraged children to express their emotions in a healthy, constructive manner, often providing a simple answer to life's hardships." Following Rogers' death, the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003 unanimously passed Resolution 111 honoring Rogers for "his legendary service to the improvement of the lives of children, his steadfast commitment to demonstrating the power of compassion, and his dedication to spreading kindness through example."[114]

The same year, the Presbyterian Church approved an overture "to observe a memorial time for the Reverend Fred M. Rogers" at its General Assembly.[115] The rationale for the recognition of Rogers reads, "The Reverend Fred Rogers, a member of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, as host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood since 1968, had a profound effect on the lives of millions of people across the country through his ministry to children and families. Mister Rogers promoted and supported Christian values in the public media with his demonstration of unconditional love. His ability to communicate with children and to help them understand and deal with difficult questions in their lives will be greatly missed."[116]

In 2003, the asteroid 26858 Misterrogers was named after Rogers by the International Astronomical Union in an announcement at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.[117] The science center worked with Rogers' Family Communications, Inc. to produce a planetarium show for preschoolers called "The Sky Above Mister Rogers' Neighborhood", which plays at planetariums across the United States.[118]

Many of the artifacts from the set of Mr. Rogers neighborhood, including the tree of X the owl, the make-believe neighborhood and the inside entrance to Mr. Rogers home is on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. Also included is a life figure of Mr. Rogers and a sweater he wore on the television show.

Several buildings, monuments, and works of art are dedicated to Rogers' memory, including a mural sponsored by the Pittsburgh-based Sprout Fund in 2006, "Interpretations of Oakland," by John Laidacker that featured Mr. Rogers.[119] Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, completed construction of The Fred M. Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media in 2008.[120] The Fred Rogers Memorial Statue on the North Shore near Heinz Field in Pittsburgh[121] was created by Robert Berks and dedicated in 2009.[122] The statue was placed in front of the surviving footing of the Manchester Bridge, which was cleaned and carved out in order to place the statue there.

In 2015, players of the Altoona Curve, a Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, honored Rogers by wearing special commemorative jerseys that featured a printed facsimile of his classic cardigan and tie ensemble. After the game the jerseys were auctioned off with the proceeds going to the local PBS station, WPSU-TV.[123]

On March 6, 2018, a primetime special commemorating the 50th anniversary of the series aired on PBS, hosted by actor Michael Keaton.[124] The hour-long special also features interviews by musician Yo-Yo Ma, musician Itzhak Perlman, actress Sarah Silverman, actress Whoopi Goldberg, actor John Lithgow, screenwriter Judd Apatow, actor David Newell, producer Ellen Doherty, and spouse Joanne Byrd Rogers, as well as clips of memorable moments from the show, such as Rogers visiting Koko the gorilla, Margaret Hamilton dressing up as The Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West, and Jeff Erlanger in his wheelchair singing "It's You I Like" with Rogers.[125]

Fred Rogers appeared on a commemorative US postage stamp in 2018. The stamp, showing him as Mister Rogers alongside King Friday XIII, was issued on March 23, 2018, in Pittsburgh.[126]

On September 21, 2018, Google Doodle honored him with a stop motion video of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.[127] At 90, his widow, Joanne Byrd Rogers, still lives in Pittsburgh, where she has honored her husband's memory by being an advocate for children and encouraging them to take on leadership roles.[128][129][130][131][132][133][134][135]

Honorary degrees



Published works

Children's books

  • Our Small World (with Josie Carey, illustrated by Norb Nathanson), 1954
  • The Elves, the Shoemaker, & the Shoemaker's Wife (illustrated by Richard Hefter), 1973
  • The Matter of the Mittens (illustrated by Beverly Townsend Vilcins), 1973
  • Speedy Delivery (illustrated by Richard Hefter), 1973
  • Mister Rogers Talks About, 1974
  • Mister Rogers Talks to Kids, 1974
  • Time to Be Friends, 1974
  • Everyone is Special (illustrated by Jason Art Studios), 1975
  • Tell Me, Mister Rogers, 1975
  • Trolley Golden Shape Book (illustrated by Jason Art Studios), 1975
  • The Costume Party (illustrated by Jason Art Studios), 1976
  • Lost Little Boy (illustrated by Beverly Townsend Vilcins), 1977
  • Planet Purple (illustrated by Dennis Hockerman, 1986
  • If We Were All the Same (illustrated by Pat Sustendal), 1987
  • A Trolley Visit to Make-Believe (illustrated by Pat Sustendal), 1987
  • Wishes Don't Make Things Come True (illustrated Pat Sustendal), 1987
  • No One Can Ever Take Your Place (illustrated by Pat Sustendal), 1988
  • When Monsters Seem Real (illustrated by Pat Sustendal), 1988
  • You Can Never Go Down the Drain (illustrated Pat Sustendal), 1988
  • The Giving Box (illustrated by Jennifer Herbert), 2000
  • Good Weather or Not (with Hedda Bluestone Sharapan, illustrated by James Mellet), 2005
  • Josephine the Short Neck-Giraffe, 2006
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (illustrated by Luke Flowers), 2009
  • Henrietta Meets Someone New (illustrated by Jason Art Studios), 2019

First Experiences series:

  • Going to Day Care, 1985
  • The New Baby, 1985
  • Going to the Potty, 1986
  • Going to the Dentist, 1987
  • Going to the Doctor, 1987
  • Making Friends, 1987
  • Moving, 1987
  • Going to the Hospital, 1988
  • When a Pet Dies, 1988
  • Going on an Airplane, 1989

Let's Talk About It series:

  • Going to the Hospital (illustrated by William Panos), 1977
  • Having an Operation (illustrated by Ruth Brunner-Strosser), 1977
  • So Many Things To See! (illustrated by Lynn Dahoney), 1977
  • Wearing a Cast (illustrated by George Gaadt), 1977
  • Adoption, 1998
  • Divorce, 1998
  • Extraordinary Friends, 2000
  • Stepfamilies, 2001


  • Tomorrow on the Children's Corner (with Josie Carey, illustrated by Mal Wittman), 1960
  • Mister Rogers' Songbook (1970)
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (Five Finger Pattern Piano), 1984
  • Mister Rogers' Songbook (Big Note Piano), 1984
  • Mister Rogers' Songbook (Easy Piano), 1997
  • Mister Rogers' Songbook (EZ Play), 2018

Books for adults

  • Many Ways to Say I Love You (book & record), 1977
  • Mister Rogers Talks to Parents (with Barry Head, illustrated by Jim Prokell), 1983
  • Mister Rogers' Playbook (with Barry Head, illustrated by Jamie Adams), 1986
  • How Families Grow (with Barry Head), 1988
  • Mister Rogers Talks with Families About Divorce (with Clare O'Brien), 1994
  • Dear Mister Rogers, 1996
  • Mister Rogers' Playtime, 2001
  • The Mister Rogers Parenting Book, 2002
  • The World According to Mister Rogers, 2003
  • You Are Special: Words of Wisdom from America's Most Beloved Neighbor, 2004
  • Life's Journeys According to Mister Rogers, 2005
  • The Mister Rogers Parenting Resource Book, 2005
  • Many Ways to Say I Love You: Wisdom For Parents And Children, 2019


  • Around the Children's Corner (with Josey Carey), 1958
  • Tomorrow on the Children's Corner (with Josie Carey), 1959
  • King Friday XIII Celebrates, 1964
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor?, 1967
  • Let's Be Together Today, 1968
  • Josephine the Short-Neck Giraffe, 1968
  • A Place of Our Own, 1970
  • You Are Special, 1970
  • Come On and Wake Up, 1972
  • 21 Favorite Songs From Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, 1973
  • Mister Rogers Sings For Those Times When..., 1973
  • Wishes Don't Make Things Come True (cassette and book), 1987
  • No One Can Ever Take Your Place (cassette and book), 1988
  • When Monsters Seem Real, 1988
  • You're Growing, 1992
  • Bedtime, 1992
  • Won't You Be My Neighbor? (cassette and book), 1994
  • Coming and Going, 1997
  • Many Ways To Say I Love You (audiobook) (read by Joel Grey, Jill Clayburgh, Lily Rabe, and Keith David), 2006


On October 23, 2018, during the first game of the 2018 World Series, Rogers' first television commercial aired for Google's Pixel 3 smartphone. In the ad, Rogers sings "Did You Know". This is the first time his voice or images have been used to advertise a product on television.[150]

See also


  1. ^ According to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood producer Hedda Sharapan, Rogers used television to communicate his message;[19] David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the Neighborhood, said, "Television was a vehicle for Fred, to reach children and families; it was sort of a necessary evil".[20]
  2. ^ See Wolfe, pp. 9-16 for a complete description of the structure of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.


  1. ^ John Donvan (February 2, 2018). "Mr Rogers ... Cool Dude" – via YouTube.
  2. ^ a b "Bill Text – 108th Congress (2003–2004) – S.CON.RES.16.ATS". THOMAS. Library of Congress. March 5, 2003. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 30, 2010.
  3. ^ Jackson, K.M.; Emmanuel, S.M. (2016). Revisiting Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: Essays on Lessons About Self and Community. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7864-7296-3. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  4. ^ Sostek, Anya (November 6, 2009). "Mr. Rogers takes rightful place at riverside tribute". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved September 6, 2010.
  5. ^ Harris, Aisha (October 5, 2012). "Watch Mister Rogers Defend PBS In Front of the U.S. Senate". Slate Magazine. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e DeFranceso, Joyce (April 2003). "Remembering Fred Rogers: A Life Well-Lived: A look back at Fred Rogers' life". Pittsburgh Magazine. Archived from the original on January 3, 2005. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  7. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time". TV Guide (December 14–20, 1996). 1996.
  8. ^ "Fred McFeely Rogers Historical – Latrobe – PA – US – Historical Marker Project".
  9. ^ a b Harpaz, Beth J. (July 18, 2018). "Mister Rogers: 'Won't you be my neighbor?' fans can check out Fred Rogers Trail". Burlington Free Press. Associated Press. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  10. ^ a b "Early Life". Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning & Children's Media. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Woo, Elaine (February 28, 2003). "It's a Sad Day in This Neighborhood". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  12. ^ a b King (2018), p. 19
  13. ^ a b "7 items that tell the story of Mister Rogers, America's favorite neighbor". June 9, 2018. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Comm, Joseph A. (2015). Legendary Locals of Latrobe. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4671-0184-4.
  15. ^ Gross (1984), event occurs at 4.27.
  16. ^ Jacobson, Lisa (February 11, 2013). "Remembering Mr. Rogers". Presbyterian Historical Society. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  17. ^ "Terry Gross and Fred Rogers". Fresh Air with Terry Gross. NPR. February 28, 2003. Retrieved January 21, 2019. Show originally aired 1985
  18. ^ Schuster, Henry (February 27, 2003). "Fred and me: An appreciation". Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c d King, p. 266
  20. ^ King, p. 265
  21. ^ Hendrickson, Paul (November 18, 1982). "In the Land of Make Believe, The Real Mister Rogers". Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  22. ^ Gross (1984), event occurs at 6.38.
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Works cited

External links