February 8, 2001
Children's television show host
"Mister Rogers" to speak at Middlebury College's commencement May
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
"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 episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Rogers ended
production of his show this year in January.
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 youngsters."
An ordained Presbyterian minister,
Rogers began his television career as a production assistant at NBC
following his graduation from 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 two George Foster
Peabody Awards, Emmys, "Lifetime Achievement" Awards from the
National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and the TV 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.
According to Clemmons, Rogers is a
unique human being who taught him a great deal about life, loyalty,
and friendship. "I wouldn't be the artist I am today if I hadn't
experienced his message of love and understanding. I'm sure that I
can say for myself and the many students who watched him all during
their youth that we are excited and honored that he has decided to
share our commencement celebration. It's one I know we'll remember
for years to come," said Clemmons.
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