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Mr. Rogers Is Remembered At An Educational Center that Bears His Name

Rogers With Puppet“It’s a beautiful day in the the neighborhood. Won’t you be, won’t you be my neighbor?”  Fred Rogers began his PBS children’s television show with this song every weekday from 1968 to 2001, a total of 895 shows. An educator, minister, songwriter, author, and television producer/host, Rogers is best known for creating and hosting Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Rogers was disturbed with the lack of quality  children’s television programing and made an effort to change it. At WQED-TV (the PBS affiliate in Pittsburgh), he developed an alternative format which featured his gentle, soft-spoken personality and directness to his audiences.  It became a favorite of millions of children when it was distributed nationwide by Eastern Educational Television Network.

The last episodes were taped in December 2000 and began airing in August 2001. At its peak, in 1985, eight percent of U.S. households tuned in to the show. Over his three decades on television, Fred Rogers became an indelible American icon of children’s entertainment and education.

Rogers grew up in Latrobe, in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands, home of Saint Vincent College (the oldest Benedictine college in America, 1846).  In 2000, he began talks with college leaders to prepare for continuing his legacy of using television and other media for the positive development of children. Working with college representatives  and a team of nationally recognized advisers, Rogers developed his vision of a center that would bring together experts in early learning and children’s media.

The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media was formally launched at Saint Vincent College in 2003 (a year following Roger’s death) to serve as a national and international resource for addressing issues affecting children and families. In 2008, the center moved into its permanent home on the Saint Vincent campus. The 36,000 square foot “green building” includes offices for the administrative staff and Center Fellows, along with the Fred Rogers Archive, a lab workshop, and the Fred Rogers Exhibit with artifacts and multimedia displays highlighting the life and work of Fred Rogers.

The Center’s exhibit area contains a number of items from the television series including a stage set, puppets, and his model “trolly”, a prop Rogers used often in telling stories.  There are several solid color sweaters (hand knitted by his mother) that Rogers wore on the show as well as the music he composed for his theme song  “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”  One of the most interesting displays is of letters from Center visitors — “The trolly was my childhood.” “Your sweater collection is divine.” “I love you so much.” “I was so sad to learn you were gone, and so glad to know you are here.”  There are many great photographs from the television series, but unfortunately no video clips.  Hopefully, these will be added at a future date.

The Center is on the Saint Vincent College campus off U.S. Rt. 30 in Latrobe.  The exhibit area, located on the Center’s second level, is open free to the public every weekday from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. and is well worth visiting for all who remember the Mr. Rogers Neighborhood television series or those interested to learn of this remarkable man and his love of children.

About the Author

In 2000, following a long and successful career as head of his own public relations agency, Jim became a freelance travel writer. In 2003 he was named travel editor at New York Trend. Jim travels widely in North America and Europe and has also visited in Asia, Africa, and Central America. He enjoys writing stories that bring alive his travel experience and entice the reader to visit new destinations. Jim is a member of the International Association of Black Travel Writers.

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