This statue honoring Fred Rogers is more formally titled “Tribute to Children.”  Rogers would have preferred it that way ….  It stands on the North Shore area of Pittsburgh, near where the Allegheny River joins the Monongahela to form the Ohio River.

Google has a new Doodle today, one that I take personal pleasure in for one or two reasons.  I used to live in Pennsylvania, several counties north of Pittsburgh; and, when I lived in Florida, I attended Rollins College.  How connected, you ask?

They’re connected via Fred McFeely Rogers, of course.  Google’s Doodle celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first taping of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (back then it was actually “Misterogers”).

Fred Rogers with Daniel Striped Tiger

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”

Fred Rogers


On September 21, 1968, a quiet, sometimes whimsical man — a musician, puppeteer, and an ordained Presbyterian minister — first stepped onto the set of his “television house,” greeting his future viewers with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” as he changed out of his suit jacket into a hand-knitted cardigan sweater and sneakers.  Fred Rogers had worked in television since the early 1950s, following his graduation from Rollins with a B.A. in music, and in children’s television since 1954.  He began developing the puppet characters and sets he would work with during a stint with the CBC in the mid-Sixties, which was also where he emerged from behind the set as purely a puppeteer and developed his relationship focus of seeming to speak directly to the viewer.  (Fred was encouraged in this by Fred Rainsberry, then the executive producer of Children’s CBC.  Rogers became friends with Rainsberry, and used the first names of his children for the last name of the telephone operator in the Kingdom of Make Believe, Ms. Paulifficate.)  He eventually returned to Pittsburgh and WQED, his former workplace, to begin his own show in 1968, and the rest, well ….

The key to Fred Rogers was his respect for the other person, especially children.  He never treated a child as less than a full person, and he worked all his life to bring that message to the world around him.  He chose public television, after he had made a good start with NBC in the Fifties, because he foresaw the direction that commercial television was going in reducing kids to young consumers.  His testimony before Congress in 1969 helped continue government funding of public broadcasting in the transition years between National Educational Television and the current Public Broadcasting Service.  PBS to this day is still the home of the best in children’s programming; and many local stations still broadcast reruns of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, as well as its successor, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood




The esteem he was held in was illustrated — really illustrated — when Fred was asked to do a cameo appearance on one of the PBS shows that owed its existence to his pioneering.  It seemed that Mister Rogers had known Arthur Reed’s mother when they were both younger, and so he came to visit them in Elwood City.  For his appearance on Arthur, of course, Fred couldn’t play a human, and so he was anthropomorphized into Marc Brown’s image of an aardvark.  And he was, of course, Mister Rogers ….  There was only one time Fred played someone other than himself, in a guest appearance on an episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, where he plays a visiting reverend.  According to Rogers, his wife met the producer of Dr. Quinn at an awards show, and told her that this was the only show he would ever watch.  An invitation was extended immediately — and he was the hit of the set, cast and crew alike.


“Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.

Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers received some 40 honorary degrees in his career, including a Doctorate of Humane Letters from his original alma mater, Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida in 1974.  He returned to the College in 1991 to lay his stone in the college Walk of Fame, (accompanied in photo, left, by college president Dr. Rita Bornstein).

Through all the years of his life and career, Fred Rogers believed in the worth and dignity of every person, and encouraged us to nurture that in our children.  The world today needs more of him and his philosophy ….

With thanks to the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College for research material and assistance.

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