Fred Rogers' Biography
"You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."
Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 40 miles east of Pittsburgh. Rogers earned his bachelor's degree in music composition at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida in 1951. Immediately upon graduation, he was hired by NBC television in New York as an assistant producer for The Voice of Firestone and later as floor director for The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour, and the NBC Opera Theatre. Rogers was married in 1952 to Joanne Byrd, a concert pianist and fellow Rollins graduate.
In November, 1953, at the request of WQED Pittsburgh, the nation's first community-sponsored educational television station, Rogers moved back to Pennsylvania. The station was not yet on the air, and Rogers was asked to develop the first program schedule. One of the first programs he produced was THE CHILDREN'S CORNER. It was a daily, live, hour-long visit with music and puppets and host Josie Carey. Rogers served as puppeteer, composer, and organist. In 1955, THE CHILDREN'S CORNER won the Sylvania Award for the best locally produced children's program in the country. It was on THE CHILDREN'S CORNER that several regulars of today's MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD made their first appearances -- among them, Daniel Striped Tiger. X the Owl, King Friday XIII, Henrietta Pussycat, and Lady Elaine Fairchilde.
During off-duty hours, Rogers attended both the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. He graduated from the Seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963 with a charge to continue his work with children and families through the mass media. Later that year, Rogers was invited to create a program for the CBC program in Canada, which the head of children's programming there dubbed MISTEROGERS. It was on this series that Rogers made his on-camera debut as the program's host. When he and his wife and two sons returned to Pittsburgh in 1966, he incorporated segments of the CBC into a new series which was distributed by the Eastern Educational Network. This series was called MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD. In 1968 it was made available for national distribution through the National Educational Television (NET) which later became Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Lifetime of Achievement
In 1968, Rogers was appointed Chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Youth. Besides two George Foster Peabody Awards, Emmys, "Lifetime Achievement" Awards from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV Critics Association, Fred Rogers received every major award in television for which he is eligible and many others from special-interest groups in education, communications, and early childhood. In 1999, he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. His life and work have been the subject of feature articles in national publications, including LIFE, Reader's Digest, Parents, Esquire, Parade, and TV Guide. In 2002, President George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, recognizing his contribution to the well-being of children and a career in public television that demonstrates the importance of kindness, compassion and learning. On January 1, 2003, in his last public appearance, Fred Rogers served as a Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade, and tossed the coin for the Rose Bowl Game.
Beyond the Broadcast
Fred Rogers was the composer and lyricist of over 200 songs, the author of numerous books for children, including the First Experience series and the Let's Talk About It series, and the author of many books for adults, including the Mister Rogers Playtime Book, You Are Special, The Giving Box, Mister Rogers Talks with Parents, and Dear Mister Rogers: Does It Ever Rain In Your Neighborhood?. His last book, The Mister Rogers Parenting Book, was praised by Publishers Weekly for the "qualities of warmth and attentiveness that translate very well into this brief yet thorough parenting guide."
Fred Rogers received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Hobart and William Smith, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, Saint Vincent College, University of Pittsburgh, North Carolina State University, University of Connecticut, Dartmouth College, Waynesburg College, and his alma mater, Rollins College.The Fred Rogers Company
Fred was chairman of Family Communications, Inc. the nonprofit company that he formed in 1971 to produce MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD and that has since diversified into non-broadcast materials that reflect the same philosophy and purpose: to encourage the healthy emotional growth of children and their families. MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD is the longest- running program on public television. Today Family Communications, Inc. is called The Fred Rogers Company in honor of its founder.
Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003 at his home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is survived by his wife Joanne Rogers, their two sons and three grandsons.