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Also Known As: Fred M Rogers Died: February 27, 2003
Born: March 20, 1928 Cause of Death: stomach cancer
Birth Place: Latrobe, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: producer, writer, TV host, puppeteer, Presbyterian minister

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A minister, educator, and multi-Emmy Award-winning television personality, Fred Rogers was unquestionably better known the world over by his more salutatory title, Mister Rogers. A two-time recipient of the esteemed George Foster Peabody Award for television excellence, Rogers became synonymous with wholesome educational broadcasting with his series, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (PBS, 1968-2001), starting in the late 1960s and lasting until the death of the beloved children's advocate in 2003. Born Frederick McFeely Rogers on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, PA, Rogers spent the majority of his youth as the only child of James and Nancy Rogers. He credited the many years he spent alone for shaping his creativity and imagination. In childhood, Rogers spent much of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, who gave his beloved grandson a lifelong interest in music and puppetry.After high school, Rogers studied briefly at Dartmouth College before transferring in 1948 to Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. There, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition. Rogers would also meet his future wife, Sara Joanne Byrd, there. The two married a year after Rogers graduated in...

A minister, educator, and multi-Emmy Award-winning television personality, Fred Rogers was unquestionably better known the world over by his more salutatory title, Mister Rogers. A two-time recipient of the esteemed George Foster Peabody Award for television excellence, Rogers became synonymous with wholesome educational broadcasting with his series, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (PBS, 1968-2001), starting in the late 1960s and lasting until the death of the beloved children's advocate in 2003.

Born Frederick McFeely Rogers on March 20, 1928, in Latrobe, PA, Rogers spent the majority of his youth as the only child of James and Nancy Rogers. He credited the many years he spent alone for shaping his creativity and imagination. In childhood, Rogers spent much of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, who gave his beloved grandson a lifelong interest in music and puppetry.

After high school, Rogers studied briefly at Dartmouth College before transferring in 1948 to Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. There, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition. Rogers would also meet his future wife, Sara Joanne Byrd, there. The two married a year after Rogers graduated in 1951. After college, Rogers had originally intended to enter the seminary, but fate had different plans for Rogers altogether.

Discovering the new invention of television for the first time while visiting his parents in the early 1950's, Rogers had a life-changing experience. Enthralled by the possibilities of this new medium, he changed his mind and decided to explore broadcasting as a career. In 1954, Rogers landed his first job at the Pittsburgh public television station, WQED. Originally hired as a puppeteer for a local kiddie program called "The Children's Corner," (1955-1961), Rogers quickly became the driving creative force of the show. Working largely in a live, unscripted format, Rogers developed characters and wrote music for "The Children's Hour" for nearly eight years. During his tenure there, he created a number of memorable puppet characters who would later re-surface in "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," including King Friday the XIII, Daniel the Striped Tiger, X the Owl, and Lady Elaine Fairchild to name a few.

Moving to Toronto in 1962, Rogers was hired by the Canadian Broadcasting Company to develop his own 15-minute children's program for television. The result was "Mister Rogers" (CBC, 1963-66), a precursor to his landmark series, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." In addition to pioneering the format that he would later use in "Neighborhood," the show allowed the puppeteer to appear before the cameras as himself. As it turned out, it was a role he was extremely well suited for.

In the mid 1960's, Rogers bought the rights for his CBC program and returned to Pittsburgh's WQED, where he had begun his career. There, Rogers developed a new show that incorporated elements of both "The Children's Corner" and "Mister Rogers." Produced originally for the Eastern Educational Network, this early version of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" aired on only a handful of stations, initially. The show proved such a hit, however, that in 1968, the show moved to the Public Broadcasting System, where it could be distributed nationwide.

A visually colorful, calmly-paced show, "Neighborhood" lacked the frenetic animation and fast cuts of such contemporaries as "Sesame Street" (PBS, 1969- ) and "The Electric Company" (PBS, 1971-77) , but therein was much of its charm. Themes were kept simple and lessons were delivered via small skits and songs that Rogers wrote himself. One of the featured highlights of every "Neighborhood" episode was a visit to the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe," a large puppetry set which housed a chiming trolley, a castle, and a cast of colorful citizens including old favorites, King Friday the XIII, Lady Elaine Fairchild, X the Owl and more. As a matter of course, the subjects discussed in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe usually reflected the theme or lesson of the day.

The popularity of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" garnered its creator international fame and celebrity, but also made him ripe for parody. His ever-polite persona, to say nothing of the omnipresent cardigan sweaters, were both cruelly played for laughs by a number of comics over the years - most famously, Eddie Murphy on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) with his urban-dwelling Mr. Robinson send-up. Though some of these routines were rather tasteless, Rogers, himself, remained above the fray and never commented on any of them.

In 2001, after more than two decades on the air, production on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" ended. In addition to earning countless awards and honors in its lifetime, the show, along with its creator, was inducted into Television Hall of Fame. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74 after a difficult battle with stomach cancer, leading numerous TV luminaries to lament his premature passing. His legacy, however, continued to live on in syndication, as well as in the fond memories of fans who had grown up wanting a neighbor just like him.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1951:
Hired by NBC as assistant producer on "The Voice of Firestone"
1951:
Floor director for "Your Lucky Strike Hit Parade", "The Kate Smith Hour" and "NBC Opera Theater (all NBC)
1953:
Moved back to Pittsburgh at the request of the as-yet-on-the-air WQED, the nation's first community-supported public television station, to develop program schedules for the following year
:
Executive producer and children's programming developer for public television
:
Producer and puppeteer, public television's "Children's Corner"
1962:
Ordained by Pittsburgh Presbytery with a charge to continue his work with children and families through the media
1963:
Opportunity led him to Canada, where he created a 15-minute children's series called "Mister Rogers", appearing for the first time on camera as the host
:
Producer and host, "Mister Rogers", Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
1964:
Returned to Pittsburgh, expanding the 15-minute segments to a half-hour format
:
Programs distributed by the Eastern Educational Network
1968:
Series made available to the affiliates of PBS
1968:
Appointed Chairman of the Forum on Mass Media and Child Development of the White House Conference on Children and Youth
:
Executive producer and host, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" (PBS)
1978:
Host, "Old Friends ... New Friends" (PBS)
1993:
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
1998:
Received a second star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Dartmouth College: Hanover , New Hampshire - 1946
Rollins College: Winter Park , Florida - 1951
Pittsburgh Theological Seminary: Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania - 1962
University of Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania - 1964 - 1967

Notes

He has received honorary degrees from over 30 colleges and universities, including Yale University, Hobart and William Smith, Rollins College (his alma mater), Carnegie-Mellon University and Boston University.

Rogers has been an extremely prolific author of children's books, beginning with "Mister Rogers' Songbook" (Random House, 1970) and including such titles as "Tell Me Mister Rogers about When Pets Die" (Platt, 1975) and "Josephine, the Short-Necked Giraffe" (Hubbard, 1987). He has also written non-fiction works like "Many Ways to Say I Love You" (Judson, 1977) and "Mister Rogers' Playbook: Insights and Activities for Parents and Children" (Berkely, 1986), as well as contributing to the magazines Parents', The Saturday Evening Post, Today's Health and Redbook, among others.

Rogers received a Sylvania Award for "Children's Corner" in 1955. Other awards include: The Saturday Review Television Award (1970), the Ralph Lowell Medal from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for Extraordinary Contributions to Public Television (1975), a Special Recognition Award from the National Directors of Special Education (1986), Parents Choice Awards (1985 and 1986), a Distinguished Service Award from the Spina Bifida Association (1985) and a National Educational Television Award for Excellence in Children's Programming.

Inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1998.

"To think that it's 30 years on the network. Hasn't that gone quickly? Can you imagine?

"I've been so blessed to be able to follow my heart that way ... It has to have been part of a wonderful plan ...

"I got into television at the very beginning because I didn't like it ...

"I had seen enough to try to do something positive with this wonderful medium ... I think I have one of the most wonderful jobs in the world ... " --Fred Rogers to New York Vue, Daily News February 15-22, 1998.

"Wherever I go and whatever the age of the people might be, somebody has checked in with the neighborhood at one time or another ... There are some universals. People long to know that they have value. They long to be loved.

"All I've done is to give myself. If people can learn existentially from others, then the real message is that one person caring for another person is what needs to be communicated--whether it's inside the [TV] box or between the box and home." --Rogers in New York Vue, Daily News, February 15-22, 1998.

"There's something that can happen between that screen and the person who is listening and watching in need. That space--I consider that space holy ground. I really think that if we do our best, and dedicate it to the best, then there is this wonderful chance that whoever comes in need will recive what's needed.

"Children watch '[Mister Rogers'] Neighborhood' intently. They must feel as if they're respected. I don't know any other reason for it. I think I'm in touch enough with the child I was, or still am, that I want to simply offer what I feel enthusiastic about." --Fred Rogers in New York Vue, Daily News, February 15-21, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Sarah Joanne Byrd. Concert pianist. Met husband at Rollins College, from which they both graduated.

Family close complete family listing

father:
James Hill Rogers. Brick manufacturer.
mother:
Nancy Rogers.
son:
James Byrd Rogers.
son:
John Frederick Rogers.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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