Fred Rogers was most famous for creating and hosting the beloved children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Over three decades, he became an icon of children’s entertainment and education, as well as a symbol of compassion, patience, and morality. Rogers died of stomach cancer on February 27, 2003 just weeks before his 75th birthday. Below are some interesting facts that you might not know about this truly inspiring man and his “Neighbourhood”.
1. Mr. Rogers full name was Fred McFeely Rogers. McFeely is the name of the Neighborhood’s Speedy Delivery man.
2. Has a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida (1951).
3. Graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church (1963).
4. Received more than 40 honorary degrees from colleges and universities, including Yale University, Hobart and William Smith, Carnegie Mellon University, Boston University, and others.
5. Was red-green color blind.
6. Was a dedicated lap-swimmer and swam almost every morning.
7. Was a vegetarian and never carried more than about 150 pounds on his six-foot frame.
8. Never smoked or drank alcohol.
9. Developed many of the puppets, characters, and music for the Mister Rogers Show at WQED, a Pittsburgh public television station, where Rogers worked as a puppeteer on a local children’s show The Children’s Corner.
10. Began wearing his famous sneakers when he found them to be quieter than his work shoes as he moved about behind the set.
11. Mister Rogers first debuted in Canada as a 15 minute program called Misterogers on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The program lasted three years before moving to first WQED in Pittsburgh, and then PBS in 1968.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. Was the chairman of a White House forum on child development and the mass media in 1968, and from then on was frequently consulted as an expert or witness on such issues. Rogers was instrumental in securing a congressional appropriation which increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million in 1971.
15. Told CNN, “I got 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.”
16. In 1984, one of Rogers’ iconic sweaters was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, which displays it as a “Treasure of American History”.
17. Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, for his contributions to children’s education.
18. After the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Rogers recorded several public service announcements for PBS to help parents and children cope with the disturbing events.
20. In 1997, Rogers received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Daytime Emmys. In a moving acceptance speech, Rogers said, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence.”