Fred McFeely Rogers was born on March 20, 1928. He had a lonely childhood, an only child until he was 11, he was introverted and bullied. But his childhood was filled with puppets and music. He graduated from Rollins Park University with a degree in music composition.
He told a story of seeing someone get hit in the face with a pie on television, and being disgusted that that was what the “new thing,” television, had to offer. He thought that it could be used for a more educational purpose, especially for kids. He started developing a children’s television program on Pittsburg Public TV in 1953 called The Children’s Hour, where he invented many of the puppets that he would go on to use on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. From 1963-1967, Fred hosted Misterogers on CBC in Toronto.
Rogers was ordained in the Presbyterian Church as a minister in 1963. He also attended the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development, when he began working with child psychologist Margaret McFarland, who became a long-time consultant for his show. In 1968, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood began on PBS (US Public Television). It ran for 895 episodes, through 2001.
For those of us who grew up in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Mister Rogers was like the most benevolent uncle or great-uncle you could have. He taught children about previously-taboo topics such as death, divorce, and war. He wanted every child to believe that they were special. He was also a bit of a radical, including a woman playing the Mayor of the Land of Make-Believe and a black man playing a local policeman. Fred is also famous for saving PBS funding in congress in 1969, and helping to save the VCR (Fred wanted parents to be able to tape his show) in 1979.
Today, remember that Fred Rodgers likes you just the way you are.