April 11, 2001

Children’s television show
host "Mister Rogers" to speak at Middlebury College’s
commencement May 27

Middlebury to Award Honorary Degrees to
Rogers and Six Others

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.―Fred Rogers,
creator and host of the PBS children’s television show
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”―the longest
running show on public television―will deliver the commencement
address at Middlebury College’s graduation ceremony on Sunday,
May 27. He will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. The
College will award honorary degrees to six other distinguished
individuals as well.

"Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,"
which debuted nationally in 1968, is carried by more than 300 PBS
stations and reaches more than four million viewers each week. There
have been almost 900 half-hour episodes of "Mister Rogers’
Neighborhood." Rogers ended production of his show this year in

According to Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr.,
Rogers is one of the most influential figures in the history of
children’s television. McCardell said, "Fred Rogers has never
wavered from his belief that showing love and compassion to our
children is the single most important element in their lives. We are
honored to recognize his positive influence on generations of

An ordained Presbyterian minister,
Rogers began his television career in New York City as a production
assistant at NBC following his graduation from Rollins College in
1951. In 1953, he moved back to his native Pittsburgh at the request
of WQED, the nation’s first community-supported public
television station. Rogers developed the station’s first
programs, including, "The Children’s Corner," a forerunner to
"Mister Rogers."

In 1966, "Mister Rogers" aired on
WQED in its current half-hour length. Two years later, PBS made the
show available for national distribution.

Rogers has received every major award
in television for which he is eligible, including George Foster
Peabody Awards, Emmys, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National
Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the Television Critics
Association, and many others from special-interest groups in
education, communications, and early childhood. In 1999, he was
inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.

Rogers is chairman of Family
Communications, 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 as the show: to encourage the healthy
emotional growth of children and their families.

Rogers has a special connection to
Middlebury College. Conductor of the College choir and Twilight
Artist-in-Residence François Clemmons performed the role of
the friendly police officer, Officer Clemmons, on "Mr. Rogers’
Neighborhood" for 25 years. Clemmons, who created the role, often
sang on the show, drawing on his experience as an opera singer and
the founder of the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble.

The College also will present honorary degrees to six other
distinguished individuals, including Johnnetta B. Cole, who
will receive a Doctor of Letters degree. From 1987-1997, she served
as the seventh president of Spelman College, where she was the first
African-American woman to hold this post since the institution’s
founding in 1881. In 1998 Cole joined the faculty of Emory
University, where she is the Presidential Distinguished Professor of
Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African-American Studies. She
is also the author of "Conversations: Straight Talk with
America’s Sister President" and "Dream the Boldest Dreams: And
Other Lessons of Life." Cole is an active participant in numerous
community, civic and corporate boards and organizations, including
The Carter Center and the National Council of Negro Women.

Lance R. Odden, headmaster of
The Taft School in Watertown, Conn., will receive a Doctor of Letters
degree. Odden began his career at Taft in 1961 after graduating from
Princeton University the same year. In 1967 he became chair of the
school’s history department, and in 1970 he began serving as
assistant headmaster. Two years later he assumed his current
position, from which he will retire this June after 29 years. A
leader in independent education in New England, Odden is the former
president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the
Headmasters Association, and the Connecticut Association of
Independent Schools.

The College will award Doctor of
Humane Letters degrees to Patricia J. Palmer and her husband
and fellow member of the Middlebury class of 1957 Charles C.
. After working as a music therapist and a music teacher,
Patricia Palmer began a career as a volunteer for numerous civic
committees and organizations, including many associated with her town
of Wellesley Hills, Mass. As a charter member of the Middlebury
College board of trustees, she served as vice chair and secretary of
the board. Palmer, who is now a trustee emerita, is also the national
co-chair of the College’s $200 million Bicentennial capital
campaign. The many other organizations which she has served include
the League of Women Voters of Wellesley, the Wellesley Board of
Selectmen and the Newton Wellesley Hospital.

Charles Palmer, an economics major in
college, worked at Advest, a financial services company, from
1960-1992. Since then he has been employed by the firm Legg Mason as
senior vice president of investments. He has served his alma mater as
a volunteer in many areas, including career counseling, admissions
and fundraising. He is the recipient of two Middlebury College
awards, the Alumni Plaque Award and the Fred Neuberger Alumni
Admissions Award.

David L. Warren will receive a
Doctor of Letters degree. Since 1993, Warren has been president of
the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities
(NAICU), an organization representing 1,000 colleges, universities
and associations on public policy issues before the legislative,
executive and regulatory branches of the federal government. Prior to
holding this position, he served as the president of Ohio Wesleyan
University from 1984-1993. Warren is the author of numerous articles
on volunteerism, town-gown conflict, crisis management and theology.
His daughter Katrin E. Warren is a member of the Middlebury class of

The College will present Ekwow Spio-Garbrah
with a Doctor of Laws degree. He is chairman and chief executive
officer of S, G & A, a public relations and financial consulting
firm based in Ghana. Spio-Garbrah has served his native Ghana as a
public servant in many positions, including minister of education
from 1998-2001, minister of communications from 1997-1998, and
ambassador to the United States and Mexico from 1994-1997. He is the
father of Koby Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, a senior at Middlebury
College, and the uncle of Ben Gyepi-Garbrah of the Middlebury class
of 1993.

The outdoor graduation ceremonies
will take place on the lawn behind Forest Hall on College Street
(Route 125) at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. More than 4,000 family and
friends are expected to attend. In the case of inclement weather,
commencement will be held in Kenyon Arena on Route 30.