Fred Rogers (March 20, 1928 – February 27, 2003)
Born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Fred Rogers was a puppeteer who hosted Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood for 33 years.
At age 11, his parents adopted a baby girl to be Rogers’ sister. After high school graduation, Rogers went to Dartmouth College but transferred to Rollins College in Florida after a year. He graduated magna cum laude in 1951 with a degree in music composition — he put that degree to good use, composing over 200 songs for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. During his senior year, he went home to visit his parents and fell in love at first sight — with his parents television. At that point, he decided he was going to be on TV.
His first job came two years later, in 1953, where he worked in programming for WQED in Pittsburgh, a recently launched community TV station. By the following year he was co-producing the program “The Children’s Corner,” where he introduced the world to his love of puppetry.
Rogers earned his divinity degree in 1962. In 1963 he made his first appearance as Mr. Rogers on a Canadian show “Misterogers.” He launched “Misterogers’ Neighborhood” back in Pittsburgh in 1966. Two years later his show was being broadcast by PBS almost nationwide. Rogers became the series producer, host and head puppeteer; also writing scripts and the music. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood brought Rogers 4 Daytime Emmys, a 1997 Lifetime Achievement award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 and Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999.
In 1968, Rogers also served as chairman of a White House forum on child development and the mass media and was often consulted as an expert witness on such issues.
In December 2000, Rogers taped his final episode which aired in August 2001. In December 2002, Rogers was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Despite having surgery for the cancer in January 2003, Rogers died in February 2003 at his home in Pittsburgh with his wife Joanne by his side.