Thiel College was the first of 40 institutions to award television’s most beloved children’s show host Fred Rogers H’69 an honorary degree in November 1969.
Fred Rogers has returned to the forefront of the national dialogue with the 50th anniversary his television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and the celebration what would have been his 90th birthday. In March 2018, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in honor of Rogers.
“It is a point of great pride that Thiel College was the first institution to recognize Fred Rogers as a visionary educator ... I am sure it would be no surprise to the folks who championed his selection 48 years ago that Mr. Rogers remains an icon and a consistent reminder of the benefits of a message of love, tolerance and understanding. It is equally gratifying that our College connects our students to a scholarship that bears Fred Rogers’ name,” Thiel College President Susan Traverso, Ph.D., said.
Rogers’ address at Thiel was titled “Encouraging Creativity.” According to the Fred Rogers Archive, the presentation was so popular that to meet the requests for it, they had copies printed in advance for immediate distribution. In his address, he admonished educators and society in general for forcing conformity on children and encouraged understanding and tolerance as children endeavored to find their gifts.
Fred Rogers’ connection with Thiel continues today. The McFeely Rogers Foundation supports Thiel College student success with the Mister Rogers Scholarship. The McFeely Rogers Foundation also provided financial support for the recently constructed James Pedas Communication Center. In the Pedas Center, a collaborative workspace for students is also named for Rogers. Near the collaborative space named for Rogers, an original trolley car from the set of his show is on display. College officials expect to supplement that artifact with additional Rogers memorabilia. Those items—along with the trolley car—will be displayed prominently on campus.
A documentary about Rogers releases in the summer of 2018 and two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks will star in an upcoming Rogers biopic.